Uncovering Key Molecule that Drives Production of Cells Critical to Allergic Reactions

Researchers discover protein that regulates the gene expression for influential immune cells, paving a path for novel targets to treat inflammatory and allergic diseases.

9:39 AM

Author | Beata Mostafavi

woman reacting to allergies outside with Kleenex behind bush with hat on
Getty Images

Recent allergy research has focused on a family of cells in the immune system proven to play a critical role in allergic responses.

Known as innate lymphoid cells, or ILCs, they can kill or regulate various cell types to fight pathogens and protect against infections – but at the same time may exacerbate allergies by over-responding and causing inflammation.

Now, researchers have discovered a protein in the bone marrow that drives production of these influential immune cells, according to findings led by the Mary H. Weiser Food Allergy Center at Michigan Medicine that appears in Science Immunology.

"We have identified a regulatory molecule that controls the production of cells that are critical to mediating allergic responses," says lead author Chang Kim, Ph.D., Michigan Medicine pathologist and researcher with the allergy center.

"A better understanding of how these cells are made and regulated brings us closer to a novel target to treat inflammatory and allergic diseases through new therapies in the future."

MORE FROM THE LAB: Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

Researchers found that this protein (BATF) regulates the gene expression required for the differentiation of the ILCs immune cells in the bone marrow.

ILCs are counterparts to T-cells that contribute to immune responses. In addition to their role in allergy responses, ILCs protect from diverse pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and parasites like tapeworms. They also help regulate fat mass, metabolism and microbiome.

The study found that animals deficient in the expression of BATF are highly susceptible to infection and are unable to mount an effective immune response to allergy-inducing cytokines. 

Like Podcasts? Add the Michigan Medicine News Break on iTunes or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

"Animals deficient in this molecule are protected from allergic responses," Kim says. "This tells us that our research may provide useful information regarding mechanisms of allergic immune responses."

Kim's lab continues research on the molecular details in the regulation of ILC production that may lead to novel targets of intervention.

Study cited: "BATF regulates innate lymphoid cell hematopoiesis and homeostasis," Science Immunology.


More Articles About: Lab Report Food Allergy Basic Science and Laboratory Research Allergy and Immunology
Health Lab word mark overlaying blue cells
Health Lab

Explore a variety of healthcare news & stories by visiting the Health Lab home page for more articles.

Media Contact Public Relations

Department of Communication at Michigan Medicine

[email protected]

734-764-2220

Stay Informed

Want top health & research news weekly? Sign up for Health Lab’s newsletters today!

Subscribe
Featured News & Stories Jianping Fu, Ph.D., Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan and the corresponding author of the paper being published at Nature discusses his team’s work in their lab with Jeyoon Bok, Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Health Lab
Human stem cells coaxed to mimic the very early central nervous system
The first organized stem cell culture model that resembles all three sections of the embryonic brain and spinal cord could shed light on developmental brain diseases
Illustration of a microscope
Health Lab
Hippo signaling pathway gives new insight into systemic sclerosis
Study focuses on Hippo signaling pathway as critical link between fibrosis, vascular dysfunction, and sex bias in systemic sclerosis
Headshot of Anne Draelos
Research News
U-M's Anne Draelos named a 2024 Sloan Research Fellow in neuroscience
Anne Draelos, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Computational Medicine & Bioinformatics, has been named a 2024 Sloan Research Fellow in Neuroscience.
vial of blood in container lab blue yellow grainy graphic
Health Lab
Unveiling potential diagnostic, treatment target for APS-related thrombocytopenia
Researchers at the University of Michigan Health have unveiled a new mechanism that drives thrombocytopenia and a potential clinically actionable biomarker for antiphospholipid syndrome associated thrombocytopenia.
sketched out bacteria in a dish yellow and blue colors of U-M
Health Lab
Bacteria in the mouth linked to pulmonary fibrosis survival
Bacteria in the mouth may play a role in survival from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).
Illustration of neuron cell
Health Lab
Two genes linked to autism implicated in brain cell connectivity
A new study links two autism-associated genes together for the first time, potentially revealing a mechanism behind brain changes seen in people with autism.