An inflammatory molecule appears to be the cause of airway damage in severe asthma, a new US study in mouse and human tissue has found.
Research led by the La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI), California, showed that an inflammatory cytokine, known as LIGHT, is key to the thickening of the lungs and airways after a severe asthma attack, which can cause long-term damage and be life-threatening.
Although LIGHT is not the only cytokine involved in an asthma attack, it appears to be the most crucial one as it has the biggest impact on the airways – cytokines are a group of proteins that are important to the immune system.
It is hoped the discovery could now lead to possible treatments for the condition, which currently has no cure.
The team first studied mice that lacked genes for essential molecules for LIGHT, before corroborating their findings in human tissues.
Professor Michael Croft, at LJI, said: "This is a very, very significant finding. This research gives us a better understanding of the potential of therapeutic targeting of LIGHT and what we might do to relieve some of the symptoms and some of the inflammatory features seen in patients who have severe asthma."