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The roles of innate lymphoid cells and rhinovirus in asthma exacerbations (AsthmaVir)
Start date: Mar 1, 2014, End date: Feb 28, 2019 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Asthma exacerbations represent a high unmet medical need in particular in young children. Human Rhinoviruses (HRV) are the main triggers of these exacerbations. Till now Th2 cells were considered the main initiating effector cell type in asthma in general and asthma exacerbations in particular. However, exaggerated Th2 cell activities alone do not explain all aspects of asthma and exacerbations. Building on our recent discovery of type 2 human innate lymphoid cells (ILC2) capable of promptly producing high amounts of IL-5, IL-9 and IL-13 upon activation and on mouse data pointing to an essential role of these cells in asthma and asthma exacerbations, ILC2 may be the main initiating cells in asthma exacerbations in humans. Thus we hypothesize that HRV directly or indirectly stimulate ILC2s to produce cytokines driving the effector functions leading to the end organ effects that characterize this debilitating disease. Targeting ILC2 and HRV in parallel will provide a highly attractive therapeutic option for the treatment of asthma exacerbations. In depth study of the mechanisms of ILC2 differentiation and function will lead to the design effective drugs targeting these cells; thus the first two objectives of this project are: 1) To unravel the lineage relationship of ILC populations and to decipher the signal transduction pathways that regulate the function of ILCs, 2) to test the functions of lung-residing human ILCs and the effects of compounds that affect these functions in mice which harbour a human immune system and human lung epithelium under homeostatic conditions and after infections with respiratory viruses. The third objective of this project is developing reagents that target HRV; to this end we will develop broadly reacting highly neutralizing human monoclonal antibodies that can be used for prophylaxis and therapy of patients at high risk for developing severe asthma exacerbations.
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