Study Shows Type 1 Interferons Block Allergy and Asthma Driving Cells

Researchers found that inhibiting development of T helper 2 cells may be advantageous in the control of allergic responses.

Immunology research conducted at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center has found that type 1 interferons (IFNs) block the development of cells that drive allergies and asthma.

According to work published in the June 2014 edition of The Journal of Immunology, a white blood cell subtype called T helper 2 cells (Th2 cells) that typically protects against parasites also drives the inappropriate immune system activation seen in allergies and asthma. A specific immune molecule triggers production of a protein that turns the Th2 cells “on” and regulates the cells’ development.

The researchers found that type 1 IFNs block Th2 cell development by targeting and turning “off” the portion of the regulating protein that stimulates Th2 cell development. This inhibition means the Th2 cells do not develop, which can be an advantage in the case of allergic responses.

“Targeting this pathway may lead to permanent tolerance of these cells to allergens,” said David Farrar, PhD, lead study author, in a press release. “We are currently pursuing studies that may lead to clinical trials that will determine whether interferon can be used to treat allergic asthma patients.

“The fact that interferon could stop the activation of these harmful cells was of particular interest because interferons are already approved by the FDA for the treatment of other diseases,” he said.