Thursday, 25 July 2013

Allergy to a Transformer's garbled signals

Transforming growth factor-β (TGFβ) is a protein we secrete throughout most of our body which controls the growth, function and future employment of cells through binding to its receptor on them and creating a specific response inside the cell. It's also one of many very important managerial proteins called cytokines. It is involved in immunity (calms it down, stops it from over-reacting to foreign things) and asthma, among other things name a few.

Frischmeyer-Guerrerio and colleagues found that patients with a genetic disease called Loeys-Dietz syndrome (LDS), had high IgE antibodies, eosinophil numbers and TH2 helper cells...all markers of and contributors to allergy. LDS is a genetic disorder in which TGFβ receptor proteins are a bit wonky. LDS patients had incidence of asthma, food allergy, eczema, allergic rhinitis and eosinophilic gut disease.

In the case of asthma, I wonder if LDS patients also had more exacerbations. These are greatest burden of disease in those with asthma. Asthmatics are also known to have a predisposition to worse outcomes after viral infections, which reach higher viral loads, as if they were not being suitably attacked by the antiviral arm of the immune system.

The authors note how changes in just one gene can lead to complex changes that manifest as disease, because the altered, reduced or absent gene products can't partake in their normal activities further down its chain of action.

A drug called Losartan may be useful to alter the signalling due to TGFβ. However, it has not been tested on LDS yet.