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Tracing pollution links to asthma, allergy

Bad air tied to disabled immune-regulating cells

12:16pm, February 25, 2013

SAN ANTONIO — Bad actors in air pollution may contribute to asthma and allergy by subverting protective cells in the body that tone down immune reactions, researchers report. The pollution components also seem to rev up overactive immune warriors — already linked to allergies — that need no such prompting.

The airborne culprits are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, the products of incomplete burning of fuel in diesel engines, furnaces, wood fires, wildfires and even barbeque grills. Air pollution has been tied to asthma and allergy in past research, but the link between PAHs and these immune problems is still unclear.

In the new report, researchers show that children exposed to high levels of PAHs had poorly functioning T-regulatory cells, or T-regs, which normally ratchet down immune-caused inflammation as needed. “T-regs are peacekeeper cells,” says Kari Nadeau, a physician and biochemist at Stanford Univers

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