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An immune-based approach to treating asthma

17 August 2012

Prof Graham Le Gros and Prof Franca Ronchese

There is no cure for asthma and the side-effects of current treatments can sometimes be as bad as the disease itself.

Allergic diseases such as asthma are caused by an overreaction of the immune system to harmless environmental triggers that we breathe in, touch or eat. In fact it is only one part of the immune system that is activated – the Th2 immune response, which normally functions to protect us from parasitic worm infections.

Why the immune systems of individuals with asthma respond to pollen as though they were parasites is unknown, however it is thought to be due in part to some form of ‘mis-programming’ of their immune systems early in life.

Whether this is because we are now ‘too clean’ in our home environments, innocently removing the good bugs that help educate our immune systems along with the bad germs that cause disease, is the subject of current debate.

Last night Malaghan Institute Asthma Researchers Profs Graham Le Gros and Franca Ronchese spoke to Amelia Nurse from Radio New Zealand National’s Our Changing World Programme about asthma, the immune system and how the two interrelate.

They also discuss why they think a vaccine or immunotherapy would be a better option for treating asthmatic disease.

You can listen to Graham and Franca’s interview by linking to the Radio New Zealand website here.