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Could blood RNA biomarkers indicate asthma related to work exposures?

Published online: July 2021

Work exposures play a significant role in asthma that begins in adulthood; 16% of all cases have been estimated to be attributable to workplace exposures. Different workplace exposures have airway effects through divergent mechanisms. Examples of work exposure that act via different mechanisms are flours in baking, isocyanate chemicals (for example, in car painting), and fumes released in welding. To enhance understanding of asthma, pathobiological mechanisms are linked to clinical findings. Asthma related to different workplace exposures gives a good opportunity to investigate asthma mechanisms and identify biomarkers that distinguish exposure-related types.

Suojalehto and her colleagues assessed 61 men with asthma related to either flour, isocyanate or welding fume exposure at work, and healthy control persons. All participants went through clinical tests and their global gene expression in nasal biopsy and blood immune cells were assessed. The results are reported in a recent issue of The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI).

Overall, more changes in gene expression were seen in blood cells than in nasal epithelium. Patients with asthma related to welding had more differences in gene expression compared to controls than those with asthma related to flour or isocyanate exposure at work. The researchers were able to identify sets of 5 genes associated with clinical parameters that could distinguish asthma related to each of these exposures.

The study reveals molecular mechanisms of asthma related to three different types of work exposures. Identified biomarkers could provide the basis for development of diagnostic markers for work-related asthma in the future. Accurate diagnostics of these patients is important for preventive measures and to improve prognosis of asthma.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) is an official scientific journal of the AAAAI, and is the most-cited journal in the field of allergy and clinical immunology.

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