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Consumer Reports

Asthma cells identified | (UPI) -- There is a special subset of immune cells in mice that are required for the development of asthma, say Stanford University Medical Center researchers.

The finding suggests people who have too many of these cells in their lungs or whose cells are easily activated could have an increased risk of developing asthma.

They say selectively killing or interfering with the activity of these linchpins -- NKT cells -- could be one way of curing or preventing asthma in the future.

"We were quite surprised by the clarity with which the mice either got asthma or not depending on whether or not they had NKT cells," said Dr. Dale Umetsu.

"The effect was very black and white."

The scientists found a strain of mice lacking the ability to make the NKT cells remained steadfastly resistant to all of the usual asthma-inducing tricks. When the scientists injected compatible NKT cells into the mice lacking the cells, the animals began wheezing right along with the control group.

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