Aditi Kaveti ‘23
Asthma is a chronic condition in the United States that affects more than 26 million people, including an estimated 6 million children. Asthma is described as an intermittent inflammation and narrowing of the airways in the lungs, wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. Inflammation is regulated by the nervous system which is regulated by the immune system. Harvard researcher Xingbin Ai, at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, conducted a study highlighting a relationship between age-related nerve-T cell communication and the susceptibility to the development of asthma in young children.
Ai and his colleagues discovered that the dopamine-DRD4 pathway led to Th2 cell inflammation in the lung tissue. CD4+ T helper cells promote the differentiation of dopamine into asthma promoting Th2 cells. Therefore, the dopamine-producing nerves were shown to cause lung inflammation at early ages . This lung inflammation triggers asthma in children, explaining the currently high prevalence of asthma in children .
Ai describes that, in the future, this research will be expanded to determine targets to disrupt the nerve-T cell communication. He hopes that the findings of the research could be used to identify specific biomarkers for allergic asthma in children and to mark and predict the severity and progression of asthma.
- X. Ai, et al., Age-related dopaminergic innervation augments T helper 2-type allergic inflammation in the postnatal lung. Immunity 51, 1-17 (2019). doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2019.10.002
- Image retrieved from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:An_Asthma_patient_taking_medication_using_an_inhaler.png