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Asthma susceptibility gene found in mice
By Christina A. Pan

Researchers have identified a gene linked to allergen-induced asthma, a chronic lung condition for which there is currently no cure. The gene codes C5, a protein involved in immune response regulation that prevents or reverses allergic asthma. A mutation of this gene disrupts the regulatory process. A team of researchers led by Marsha Wills-Karp, of Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore, MD, found that an absence of C5 in mice increased susceptibility to asthma. After exposure to an allergen, C5-deficient mice demonstrated increased mucus, contraction, and inflammation in the air passages—symptoms characteristic of asthma. The results of the study are published in the September issue of Nature Immunology.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, asthma affects more than 15 million people in the United States, and, for reasons that remain unclear, there is an increase worldwide in the prevalence and severity of the disease. The results of this study demonstrate how a genetic deletion can affect the body's regulatory processes and will help researchers to better understand the mechanisms underlying these processes.

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Karp, C.L. et al. Identification of complement factor 5 as a susceptibility locus for experimental allergic asthma. Nat Immunol 1, 221-226 (September 2000).

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