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Amali Samarasinghe, Ph.D.

University of Tennessee Health Science Center

Molecules Found in Allergic Airways May Protect Against Influenza

Amali Samarasinghe, Ph.D.

Although asthma was a risk factor associated with increased hospitalization during the 2009 influenza pandemic, people with asthma were less likely to die from influenza compared with non asthmatics. Reasons for these seemingly contradictory results are unknown. Our data suggests that small proteins called resistin-like molecules, which are abundant in allergic airways, may play a role in reducing illness from influenza. The function of these proteins in respiratory viral infections has not been thoroughly investigated. We will examine the source and function of these proteins in influenza immunity. Our findings can be used to develop treatments for influenza virus infections.

Update: We found white blood cells called eosinophils have an antiviral effect during influenza infections. The availability of resistin-like molecules in the lungs correlated with the presence of eosinophils. We have determined that resistin-like molecules regulate the inflammatory response during allergic asthma and influenza. We are continuing to study how eosinophils may function as positive regulators of these molecules during influenza.

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