Researchers in Japan have pinned down a set of molecular level events that could easily relate allergic reactions and respiratory problems to the presence of air pollution.

Allergic Reactions Due To Air Pollution

As the pollution level in the air rises, the cases of asthma and other respiratory troubles also seem to be increasing. Nano-scopic particle matter pollutes the air and gets into the lungs. Macrophages, or the white blood cells responsible for consuming the foreign pollutants, fail to protect the immune system, causing the allergic reactions.

A research conducted on mice, by scientists at the Immunology Frontier Research Center (IFReC) at Osaka University, Japan, revealed that certain molecular level happenings can help explain allergic reactions in human due to air pollution.

Etsushi Kuroda, researcher at Osaka University, performed and penned the study in Immunity, showing that release of IL-1α, group of cytokines responsible for regulating immunity and inflammatory responses to infections, initiates a series of events that result in respiratory diseases.

"We found that particulates kill macrophages, which then go on to release interleukin-1α (IL-1α)," stated Kuroda, in a press release. The release of IL-1α in mice primed the lungs for inflammation when the mice were later exposed to an allergen. "Particulates that did not kill macrophages did not cause an allergic reaction," Kuroda added.

What Happens In Lungs After IL-1α Release Is Yet to Be Uncovered?

The immune-related events occurring in the lungs leading to allergic reactions are still not known. The scientists feel that uncovering these events can be a breakthrough that is required in the treatment and prevention of respiratory ailments.

Osaka University Professor Ken J. Ishii, who was leading the study, explained that emission of IL-1α was followed by development iBALTs (Inducible Bronchus-Associated Lymphoid Tissue). iBALTs are type of tissues that are usually found in lungs of patients with asthma or lungs with inflammation or infection.

Formation of iBALTs in humans indicates that people could remain vulnerable to high levels of asthma attacks, even on clear and pollution-free days. Given that iBALTs could develop in people's lungs on high pollution days, the victims could be exposed to allergen much later.

The experiment conducted on mutant mice revealed that they were not sensitive to IL-1α and hence did not produce iBALTs.

Targeting iBALTs Formation Can Help Fight Respiratory Illness

Scientists believe that targeting the reason behind formation of iBALTs in infected lungs can help in the treatment and prevention of all kinds of respiratory ailments arising due to air pollution. Discovering the molecular signals and chief chemicals responsible for development of iBALTs in lungs can be the next step in the raging battle against asthma and other respiratory diseases.

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