Scientific discovery gives new hope to asthma sufferers

Scientists in Trinity College have discovered a new way to help treat allergies and asthma.
Researchers from both Dublin and Cambridge worked together to identify a previously unknown white blood cell involved in allergic responses, called a “nuocyte”.
The new cell was discovered by using parasitic worms, to experimentally drive allergic-like responses. The cell produces a chemical called Interleukin 13 (IL-13), and initiates the early responses that can lead to allergic conditions like asthma.
Allergic diseases are caused by an inappropriate response the body makes in response to molecules in the environment, such as allergens from dust mites. The name given to the new blood cell “nuocyte” comes from “nu”, the 13th letter of the Greek alphabet.
The research received the collaboration of Professor Padraic Fallon, from Trinity’s School of Medicine. The research findings were led by a Dr Andrew McKenzie, from the University of Cambridge.
The findings have just been published in the leading international scientific journal, Nature, in a paper entitled: “Nuocytes represent a new innate effect or leukocyte that mediates type-2 immunity”.
Professor Fallon said “We are very excited by this work”. He explains the research has “identified a new cell type that initiates the generation of allergic immune responses that leads to conditions such as asthma”.
“As asthma is on the increase globally, particularly in Ireland, the discovery of a new cell involved opens novel opportunities for developing drugs for allergic diseases. This development also sheds new light on the response to parasitic infections and could provide insights into poverty-related diseases worldwide,” Professor Fallon added.
Professor Dermot Kelleher, Head of Trinity’s School of Medicine, said, “The School of Medicine at Trinity College Dublin has strongly focused on research relating to inflammatory diseases. We very much welcome the discovery of this new cell type.”
He says the “nuocyte” will “produce radical new insights into the causation of asthma and other common diseases.”
Professor Fallon’s research on the new cell was funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), an organisation dedicated to providing investments for academic researchers.
Commenting on the publication, Dr Stephen Simpson, Director of Life Science at SFI, said, “This work has great relevance to our understanding of the role of the immune system in infection, as well as in allergic conditions. We welcome the collaboration between one of SFI’s Principal investigators and this world-class group of researchers.”