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Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

May 2024

NIEHS-supported research can help people with asthma breathe better

Recent scientific advances help to identify root causes of and new treatment approaches for asthma, a chronic respiratory disease.

In recognition of Asthma Awareness Month, Environmental Factor shares the latest discoveries made by NIEHS scientists and grant recipients related to the chronic respiratory disease.

Asthma, which is characterized by coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath, affects about 25 million people in the United States, including 4.7 million children and adolescents. In 2021, more than 3,500 people across the country died from asthma-related causes.

The following examples of recently published research aim to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of asthma by better understanding the environment’s role in the disease.

female doctor with young girl patient wearing breathing mask
Throughout the month of May, NIEHS, together with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will share recent advances in asthma research.

Majority of clinicians do not frequently assess environmental asthma triggers

Environmental assessment and recommendations to patients vary considerably among asthma care providers, according to NIEHS researchers and their collaborators. A higher percentage of specialists assessed asthma triggers at home, school, or work than primary care or advanced practice providers. However, 46%-76% of clinicians, depending on clinician type, reported not assessing triggers almost always during asthma visits. Read the full summary.

Citation: Salo PM, Akinbami LJ, Cloutier MM, Wilkerson JC, Elward KS, Mazurek JM, Diette GB, Mitchell TA, Williams S, Zeldin DC. 2023. Environmental management of asthma in clinical practice: results from the 2012 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. J Allergy Clin Immunol Glob 3(1):100192.

Plasma proteomic signatures of adult asthma

A large-scale proteomics study identified more than 100 plasma proteins associated with asthma in adults, according to NIEHS researchers and their collaborators. In addition to validating previous associations, the researchers identified many novel proteins that could inform the development of diagnostic biomarkers and therapeutic targets in asthma management. Read the full summary.

Citation: Smilnak GJ, Lee Y, Chattopadhyay A, Wyss AB, White JD, Sikdar S, Jin J, Grant AJ, Motsinger-Reif AA, Li JL, Lee M, Yu B, London SJ. 2024. Plasma protein signatures of adult asthma. Allergy 79(3):643-655.

Targeting the root cause of asthma

Housing policy may be a tool to reduce childhood asthma disparities, according to recent findings from the NIEHS-funded Mobility Asthma Project. As reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, children who move to neighborhoods with lower rates of poverty experience significant improvements in asthma symptoms, in part by reducing stress. Read the full article.

Citation: Pollack CE, Roberts LC, Peng RD, Cimbolic P, Judy D, Balcer-Whaley S, Grant T, Rule A, Deluca S, Davis MF, Wright RJ, Keet CA, Matsui EC. 2023. Association of a housing mobility program with childhood asthma symptoms and exacerbations. JAMA 329(19):1671-1681.

Why anti-thromboxane therapies have failed in asthma clinical trials

Thromboxane A2 (TXA2) can dampen the immune response in the allergic lung, which may have important therapeutic consequences, according to NIEHS researchers and their collaborators. In contrast to its acute, pro-inflammatory, and bronchoconstrictive effects, TXA2 also has longer-lasting immunosuppressive effects that attenuate Th2 and Th9 cell differentiation that drives asthma progression. These results help explain the failure of anti-thromboxane therapies and suggest that targeting the TXA2/TP receptor signaling pathway may lead to the development of novel asthma treatments. Read the full summary.

Citation: Li H, Bradbury JA, Edin ML, Gruzdev A, Li H, Graves JP, DeGraff LM, Lih FB, Feng C, Wolf ER, Bortner CD, London SJ, Sparks MA, Coffman TM, Zeldin DC. 2024. TXA2 attenuates allergic lung inflammation through regulation of Th2, Th9 and Treg differentiation. J Clin Invest e165689 [Online 14 Mar 2024].

Community-level characteristics modify childhood asthma risk

Early-life air pollution exposure is associated with increased childhood asthma incidence, with higher risk among minoritized families living in densely populated communities, according to NIEHS-funded researchers. Their results suggest that exposure to fine particulate matter (PM) smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) may play a role in the development of asthma by early and middle childhood in communities characterized by fewer opportunities and resources and multiple environmental exposures. Read the full article.

Citation: Zanobetti A, Ryan PH, Coull BA, Luttmann-Gibson H, Datta S, Blossom J, Brokamp C, Lothrop N, Miller RL, Beamer PI, Visness CM, Andrews H, Bacharier LB, Hartert T, Johnson CC, Ownby DR, Khurana Hershey GK, Joseph CLM, Mendonça EA, Jackson DJ, Zoratti EM, Wright AL, Martinez FD, Seroogy CM, Ramratnam SK, Calatroni A, Gern JE, Gold DR; ECHO Children’s Respiratory and Environmental Workgroup. 2024. Early-Life exposure to air pollution and childhood asthma cumulative incidence in the ECHO CREW Consortium. JAMA Netw Open 7(2):e240535.

Additional resources to explore

(Janelle Weaver, Ph.D., is a contract writer for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison. Caroline Stetler is Editor-in-Chief of the Environmental Factor, produced monthly by the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)

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