Study Identifies Immune Cells Responsible for Severe Asthma

October 30, 2023 10:38:35

Researchers from the University of Southampton, United Kingdom and La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) have identified a group of immune cells that may be responsible for severe asthma. Identified as  cytotoxic CD4+ tissue-resident memory T cells, these cells congregate in the lungs and seem to have the ability to cause the harm associated with later development of asthma.

Researchers say these immune cells are especially prevalent in men and note that men who are diagnosed with asthma after age 40 often have high counts of this specific T cell in their lungs, which increases their odds of developing severe asthma. The study used information from the WATCH study, an NHS-clinic-based study that follows hundreds of patients with asthma over several years. This program has allowed researchers to study asthma patients of all ages and sexes at various stages of the disease and analyze their immune cell populations.

As a result, scientists are making new discoveries on the connection between immune cell activity and asthma symptoms.

University of Southampton Associate Professor Ramesh Kurukulaaratchy, who is WATCH study director and NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Center researcher, says gaining a deeper understanding of immune cell populations in asthma patients makes it easier to develop targeted treatments. Although T-cells are technically designed to protect the body, there are instances where their presence itself is the problem.

In the case of asthma, the combination of “cytotoxic,” CD4+ tissue-resident memory T cells and insufficient helpful cells within the lungs may increase the risk of severe cancer in older men. These memory T cells typically react to harmful molecules that the body fought off in the past and are instrumental in preventing viral and bacterial infections. In asthma patients, however, memory T cells can also confuse harmless molecules such as pollen with threats and launch a deadly inflammatory response.

The recent paper suggests that these T cells can build up in the lungs, especially in older men, and increase the likelihood of dangerous and even fatal asthma attacks. Furthermore, LJI graduate student Sara Herrera de la Mata found that older men who developed asthma in middle age had minimal levels of anti-inflammatory T cells that alleviate severe asthma but had a significant number of potentially harmful memory T cells.

The average man’s lungs have a diverse population of various types of CD4 T cells but cytotoxic CD4+ tissue-resident memory T cells accounted for 65% of lung T cells in older men with adult-onset asthma. Researchers still don’t understand why these specific memory T cells are problematic for older men.

The efforts by enterprises such as Scinai Immunotherapeutics Ltd. (NASDAQ: SCNI) to develop immunotherapies against autoimmune conditions could help to address issues such as adult-onset asthma.

NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Scinai Immunotherapeutics Ltd. (NASDAQ: SCNI) are available in the company’s newsroom at

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