Dutch scientists closer to asthma vaccine

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Dutch scientists have taken a major step towards developing a vaccine for asthma.

Asthma occurs when cells in the lung react violently to what are actually harmless stimuli. The Dutch Asthma Fund announced today that researchers in Leiden, Rotterdam and Amsterdam have discovered that certain chemicals can be used to manipulate the cells so they do not react to those stimuli.

Hermelijn Smits of the Leiden University Medical Center: “Now we know how the hypersensitive defence reaction in the lungs is caused and how we can prevent it, we can attempt to create a real vaccine. We plan to design vaccine molecules in which the allergen is combined with the inhibitor which affects the dendritic or immune cells.”

Asthma is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Attacks of wheezing and coughing can be set off by stimuli including pets, pollen or another illness. Around 115,000 Dutch children suffer from asthma, making it the leading chronic illness among children.

Michael Rutgers, head of the Dutch Asthma Fund, is optimistic about the potential of an asthma vaccine but emphasizes that it could be another 10 or 20 years before it can be made available.

(imm)

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