A new study from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine has revealed a role for the ORMDL3 gene in asthma management. ORMDL3, a gene recently associated with susceptibility to asthma, is now referred to in relation to the body’s ability to harvest inflammatory cells during a respiratory allergic reaction in the airways.
Researchers have identified how ORMDL3 controls inflammatory cells in the airways, thereby causing them to become inflamed, in a mouse example. Scientists have identified factors that regulate the ORMDL3 gene in certain white blood cells, such as eosinophils, during allergic asthma. Eosinophils are white blood cells designed to protect the body from parasites; however, for some types of inflammation, including exposure to allergens, instead of providing protection, they can cause tissue damage leading to asthma or other allergic disorders.
Little is known about the function of ORMDL3 in asthma. By slowing down or, conversely, enhancing the expression of ORMDL3 in eosinophils, the group identified genome-regulated molecules. These molecules allow eosinophils to collect in the airways, where they cause allergic inflammation. By turning off the ORMDL3 gene, the researchers found lower levels of integrins on the surface of eosinophils, which means a decrease in the ability of eosinophils to migrate and cause inflammation in the airways.
The authors noted that their discovery is just one piece of the puzzle. The more information available about the role of genes in asthma susceptibility, the better it will be possible to develop new treatment options.
The researchers hope that their discovery will help in the future to better understand the pathogenesis of asthma and the role of genetics in inflammatory allergic reactions. This work applies not only to asthma, but also to potential other gastrointestinal and skin-related allergic disorders. The ORMDL3 gene studied by researchers has been linked to asthma in various ethnic groups around the world.