Avery August targets asthma in animals and humans

By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , /

There are varying degrees of severity of the
allergic epidemic. One is sort of a simple, avoid
foods all the way to people getting life-threatening allergic attacks and die
because they can’t breathe or they have systemic anaphylaxis where they undergo shock and die that way. And so this is a serious issue not only
because of the varying degrees of severity but also the number of people involved, the cost to society. My laboratory studies the development of allergies and asthma. This is a disease that is actually reaching epidemic
proportions in developing countries. As countries take on westernized diets and
environments we see an increase in kids and adults
getting these types of diseases. Now allergies and asthma are an overreaction of the immune response to exposure to certain agents and we don’t understand why, and that’s
why we’re trying to study this. Of course, to understand this, we would like to be able to study humans but there are many things that we obviously can’t do in humans and so that leads us to
developing animal models such as the mouse that I’m holding here. We can
genetically manipulate it to remove or add back certain components of the immune system and then ask the question, do we still get the disease, do we still get asthma, do we still get allergies. There’s an enzyme that we’ve been studying and when we target this enzyme what we can find is that these mice no longer develop the disease so what that suggests to us is that if
we can develop drugs that would target that particular enzyme then we could potentially use those
drugs in humans. That’s something that I will be really excited if that happens. I was recruited to Cornell to become a chair of the
Department of Microbiology and Immunology. The vet school is the number one vet
school in the country and there’s some outstanding people here and so having
the opportunity to be here at Cornell and work with these people was really very attractive. I think being in the vet school allows us to really take fuller advantage of that broader range of species that we have that may develop similar diseases to what
we’re trying to understand. The excitement for me in being a researcher, a scientist, is this discovery of something new, this idea that this is being seen for the first time, nobody else has seen this in the world and then thinking about that discovery,
how can we use this in a way that is useful in treating disease. And that’s the really exciting part about what what I do.

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