No Allergies, But Asthma-like Symptoms? It Can Happen

Many children with allergies also must contend with the effects of asthma. However, their are a significant number of youngsters that are allergy-free, yet still exhibit asthma-like symptoms. A team of researchers believes it’s found the answer to this long-standing mystery. 

Not the Best Kind of Protein

Ever hear of TRPV1? Don’t feel bad if the answer is no, as very few people know that this acronym stands for ansient receptor potential vanilloid 1. In short, TRPV1 is a protein that can induce mucus production and cough reflex stimulation, while also forcing the lungs’ airways to tighten. A study issued by the Cleveland Clinic points the finger at TRPV1 as the reason for asthma-like symptoms in children without allergies. 

For their study, the team examined epithelial cells extracted from donated human lung tissue. Specifically, the authors compared the presence of TRPV1 in tissue from children against that of adults. Following this step, the tissue samples were injected with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and subsequently reexamined. Samples from both asthmatics and non-asthmatics alike were reviewed. 

Old vs. Young

The experiment revealed that the RSV-injections spurred the activity of TRPV1 proteins in samples donated from children. In the adult lung tissue samples, conversely, TRPV1 activity levels did not noticeably change. In a Cleveland Clinic press release, lead author Giovanni Piedimonte stressed that “TRPV1 plays a critical role in the mechanism of cough, though it is not linked to immune or allergic mechanisms. Many young children cough and wheeze when they get infected by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) — similar to an asthma attack — but they do not respond to typical drugs we give for adult asthmatics, and this study might explain why.”
To date, there are no widely available medications designed to control overactive TRPV1 proteins. If there is a silver lining to this report, it is that future pharmaceutical research could allow for the widespread production of such medicines. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology published the study in late 2017.

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