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Catherine Ptaschinski, Ph.D.

University of Michigan
Studying Genes Important in Controlling Immune Response in Allergic Asthma

While there are a number of genetic and environmental factors that drive allergic asthma, the mechanisms of the disease are still not fully understood. While many patients are able to control symptoms, some patients do not respond to treatment. We have identified a family of three genes—Hoxa5, Hoxb5 and Hoxc5—that are important in controlling the immune response in allergic airway disease. We have shown that these genes are active in T cells, critical cells responsible for many of the symptoms of allergic asthma. This project seeks to understand how these genes function in T cells and in asthma. Understanding how these genes contribute to inflammation may help to identify new therapeutics.

Update: We have begun to understand how the three Hox5 genes contribute to the development of allergic disease. We have found a novel role for these genes in controlling inflammatory signals in T cells, and our results suggest that HOX5 proteins are able to fine-tune allergic inflammation and help to control disease. Furthermore, we have found that one of the genes, Hoxc5, is the most critical gene in the process. Future studies will confirm the role of Hoxc5 using living organism allergic models. Based on new preliminary results, we will also investigate potential roles for Hox5 genes in cell survival and proliferation.

Catherine Ptaschinski, Ph.D.

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