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Hope for asthma prevention

Tuesday May 19th, 2009

A scientific breakthrough, reported last night, may offer hope of preventing asthma in thousands of children who show early symptoms of allergy.

The new findings show how damage to skin caused by eczema triggers chemical reactions - causing hypersensitivity in the lungs.

Researchers say they hope to develop a treatment to prevent the process, known as the atopic march.

As many as 70 per cent of children with severe eczema go on to develop asthma - a condition which affects about nine per cent of the population.

The new findings, from laboratory studies, suggest a chemical called TSLP - thymic stromal lymphopoietin - is responsible and is produced by damaged skin cells. They are published in the Public Library of Science Biology.

Researcher Professor Raphael Kopan, of Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, USA, said: "We are excited because we've narrowed down the problem of atopic march to one molecule.

"We've shown that skin can act as a signalling organ and drive allergic inflammation in the lung by releasing TSLP. Now it will be important to address how to prevent defective skin from producing TSLP.

"If that can be done, the link between eczema and asthma could be broken."

In a second study reported last night, US scientists reported another chemical that may cause asthma linked to allergy. Reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from Yale School of Medicine and the University of California, say a protein called TRPA1 seems to play a key role in the symptoms of asthma.

It may be treatable with a drug known as HC-030031, they report.

Public Library of Science Biology. May 19, 2009 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on-line May 18-22

Tags: Allergies & Asthma | Child Health | Dermatology | North America | Respiratory

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