OCT 02, 2017 10:37 AM PDT

Neural Miscommunication in the Lungs Amplifies Allergic Inflammation

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

Miscommunication between the nervous system and the immune system leads to the coughing and wheezing known all too well by people with allergic asthma, a new study shows. A new study is the result of collaboration between Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, where scientists identify immune cells and neural signaling in the lungs that promote asthma-inducing inflammation.

A micrograph showing inflammation of the lung. Source: Wikimedia User Nephron

Lung-resident innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) hug the line between protective and inflammatory, and they exist alongside nerve fibers that are often responsible for smooth muscle contractions leading to the characteristic features of asthma. Using novel single-cell RNA sequencing technology, researchers identified a “molecular cue” that appears to be responsible for lung-resident ILCs leaning toward the inflammatory side over the protective side.

Single-cell RNA sequencing allowed researchers to scan over 65,000 individual cells, looking for genes that were active in normal conditions versus inflammatory conditions. In this way, scientists were putting together the pieces of a puzzle; from a distance ILCs all look the same, but in reality, they are all unique and play a specific role in a specific place.

"To really understand the puzzle that is allergy and asthma, we need closely examine each of the pieces individually and understand how they fit together into an ecosystem of cells," explained co-study leader Aviv Regev, PhD, director of the Klarman Cell Observatory at the Broad Institute.

Researchers focused on one gene, Nmur1, which codes for a receptor for the neuropeptide NMU (neuromedin U). In response to molecules called alarmins, NMU signaling promotes allergic inflammation, triggering smooth muscle contraction and inflammation. Another NMU receptor, Nmur2, has been implicated in endometrial cancer cell progression.

Other research also shows that ILCs in the gut express Nmur1. "We anticipate that the NMU-NMUR1 pathway will also play a critical role in amplifying allergic reactions in the gut and promote development of food allergies," explained co-senior author Vijay Kuchroo, PhD.

"We may have identified a way of blocking allergic lung inflammation by controlling neuropeptide receptors," said another team leader, Samantha Riesenfeld, PhD. "This work represents a mechanistic insight that could lead to the development of a new therapeutic approach for preventing asthma."

The present study was published in the journal Nature.

Sources: Military Medical Research, Oncotarget, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
AUG 30, 2021
Cancer
A Hot Approach to CAR T Cells
AUG 30, 2021
A Hot Approach to CAR T Cells
Immunotherapy, a type of treatment that targets a patient’s immune system to enhance the natural ability to attack ...
SEP 02, 2021
Immunology
Will an Extra COVID Vaccine Shot Benefit People With Autoimmune Conditions?
SEP 02, 2021
Will an Extra COVID Vaccine Shot Benefit People With Autoimmune Conditions?
The global rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has helped save countless lives during the pandemic. Studies have shown that vac ...
OCT 26, 2021
Immunology
Two Different Arms, Twice the Cancer-Killing Potential?
OCT 26, 2021
Two Different Arms, Twice the Cancer-Killing Potential?
Our immune system has developed an arsenal of sophisticated molecular weapons to defend us against the continuous barrag ...
OCT 28, 2021
Cancer
NF-κB: a Trick or a Treat for Cancer?
OCT 28, 2021
NF-κB: a Trick or a Treat for Cancer?
A family of proteins, known as transcription factors, regulate the biological process of converting DNA into RNA. T ...
NOV 03, 2021
Plants & Animals
A Samoan Plant May Reduce Inflammation as Well as Ibuprofen
NOV 03, 2021
A Samoan Plant May Reduce Inflammation as Well as Ibuprofen
To the people of Samoa, the medicinal qualities of a tree known as matalafi are well known. Now scientists are bringing ...
NOV 17, 2021
Microbiology
Large Flu Outbreak at the University of Michigan Draws CDC's Attention
NOV 17, 2021
Large Flu Outbreak at the University of Michigan Draws CDC's Attention
Every year, there is a flu outbreak, and the severity can depend on many factors, like what strain is circulating. Last ...
Loading Comments...