Having earlier identified the genetic and molecular relationship that causes eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), scientists at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center now say they better understand the role a specific protein plays in the development of the chronic inflammatory condition.
EoE is characterized by high accumulations in the esophagus of white blood cells called eosinophils, as well as hypersensitivity to certain foods. EoE is considered a form of food allergy.
Using esophageal biopsies from patients with EoE to identify a possible role for the protein calpain 14, Dr. Marc Rothenberg and his team of researchers exposed cells from these tissues to an immune system signaling protein called interleukin-13, which is produced during allergic reactions. In doing so, they discovered that interleukin-13 caused cells from patients with EoE to markedly increase production of calpain 14. They also found that calpain 14 is linked to the regulation of another protein called desmoglein 1, a critical component of tissue in the esophagus.
It’s thought that the relationship between these proteins, and interleukin-13’s impact on them during an allergic reaction, may be an early step in a process that leads to inflammation and scarring in the esophagus –two of the hallmarks of EoE. The researchers concluded by saying future drug treatments that focus on the production and/or activity of calpain 14 could help prevent the development of EoE.
Researchers received funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and study was published online April 7, 2016 in JCI Insight.