Key Immune Substance Linked to Asthma

Stanford University School of Medicine investigators have linked a master molecule of the immune system, gamma-interferon, to the pathology of asthma, in a study of mice. This somewhat surprising finding — the key immune molecule has often been assumed to steer the immune system in a different direction from the cluster of allergic disorders to which asthma belongs — could lead to new treatments for the disease.

Gamma interferon’s role in asthma has been fuzzy. High levels of this substance in children’s blood seem to be protective against the development of asthma. Yet high gamma-interferon concentrations are often found in severe asthmatics’ lungs. The new study, which will be published online July 1 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, amasses several lines of evidence indicating that gamma-interferon may be contributing to the severity of asthma.

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