UCLA researchers found that asthma can have detrimental affects on more than just the lungs, according to a recent study. The researchers found that genetic damage is present in circulating (peripheral) blood.
In the study, researchers looked for the overexpression of a cytokine called interleukin 13, which is known to mediate inflammation, a critical problem for people with asthma, according to a news release. The study, which used an animal model that mimicked human asthma, was the first to assess the role of IL-13 in genetic damage to cells, or genotoxicity, said its senior author, Robert Schiestl, PhD, a professor of pathology and radiation oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, in the release.
Asthma is a very widespread disease, and we show for the first time an association between asthma and genotoxicity in peripheral blood, Schiestl, who also is a professor of environmental health sciences at the Fielding School of Public Health at UCLA, said in the release. This is important because it shows a whole-body effect from asthma, not just damage in the lungs.
The findings were published in the journal Mutation Research/Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis.
Schiestl said it appears that IL-13 increases important elements of the inflammatory response, including reactive oxygen species molecules ions or very small molecules that include free radicals. His research team found genetic damage with four types of systemic effects in the peripheral blood oxidative DNA damage, single and double DNA strand breaks, micronucleus formation and protein damage which causes the chromosomes to become unstable. We found four different markers of DNA damage and one marker of protein damage in blood cells in the body periphery, which was very surprising, Schiestl said in the release. This could indicate that other organs in asthmatics have a higher risk of developing disease.
Schiestl and his team will next attempt to use chemicals that help repair the DNA of damaged cells. Their goal is to determine whether doing so can make asthma less damaging by reducing genetic instability in the peripheral blood supply.