January 29, 2020 2:24 PM

Innate Immune Activation Behind Asthma Attacks from Common Cold

Most asthma attacks in children are caused by viruses like the common cold. Michigan researchers get closer to explaining why.

drawing of lungs
Image by Stephanie King

While rhinoviruses, the culprit behind the so-called common cold, are generally harmless, for kids with asthma, colds often trigger asthma attacks. In fact, colds are the number one cause of asthma exacerbation in children and adults. Michigan Medicine researchers Marc Hershenson, M.D., division director of pediatric pulmonology at C.S. Mott Children’s hospital and Mingyuan Han, Ph.D. a postdoctoral fellow and their team are investigating why this is.

In a new paper in the journal Mucosal Immunology, they describe how the inflammasome, part of the immune response that turns on inflammation and other processes to fight pathogens like bacteria and viruses and other harmful substances, is activated by rhinoviruses in a mouse model. This activation sensitizes the airway in both normal mice and allergic mice. This finding points to the inflammasome as a possible target for treatment of cold-induced asthma attacks.

Paper cited: Inflammasome activation is required for human rhinovirus-induced airway inflammation in naive and allergen-sensitized mice,” Mucosal Immunology. DOI: 10.1038/s41385-019-0172-2