Asthma: Triggers of the disease discovered?

Asthma: Triggers of the disease discovered?

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Newly discovered protein as a trigger for suspected asthma

Around eight million people in Germany suffer from asthma. Despite the widespread use, the exact causes are not yet sufficiently understood. An overreaction of the immune system triggers the seizures - that much is clear. An Irish research team has now given deeper insight into the subtle mechanisms of the disease. A newly discovered protein appears to play a key role in this.

Researchers at Trinity College Dublin attribute a newly discovered protein to a critical role in asthma. The so-called protein caspase-11 has never been associated with asthma before. According to the research team, this breakthrough can lead to improved therapeutic options. The results were recently presented in the renowned journal "Nature Communications".

New knowledge about asthma diseases

As the team reports, Ireland is one of the countries with the highest incidence of asthma in Europe. The most dangerous form of this disease is still difficult to treat and, in the worst case, even fatal. The team around the lead author Dr. Zbigniew Zaslona and research director Professor Luke O'Neill examined the role of inflammation in asthma and discovered a previously unknown factor.

What is Caspase-11?

Caspase-11 is a protein that is important for the defense against bacteria. The research team found that overactivity can trigger a harmful inflammatory response. According to the researchers, this reaction is a likely main factor for allergic inflammation in the lungs of asthmatics.

Caspase-11 kills cells

"Caspase-11 can cause cell death, which is a very inflammatory event because the cells then release their contents, which can irritate the tissues in our body," explains Dr. Zaslona. This process causes the typical signs and symptoms of asthma - especially difficulty breathing. Caspase-11 emerged in the study as a key factor in inflammation in the airways in asthma diseases.

Has an asthma causer been caught?

Although the symptoms of mild asthma can be managed with current therapies, therapy for severe asthma remains a problem. At the same time, the researchers point out that the number of people with asthma is constantly increasing. "A variety of irritants such as air pollutants, certain types of pollen and dust mites can cause cell death in the lungs," says Zaslona. The study suggests for the first time that Caspase-11 causes these diseases.

Promising starting point

"Caspase-11 - or its human equivalent, Caspase-4 - has never been associated with asthma, so we think it is a promising target for new drugs to treat this common and debilitating disease," said research director O'Neill. For more information on asthma, see the article: Bronchial asthma - causes, symptoms, and therapy. (vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Trinity College Dublin: Trinity researchers make asthma breakthrough (published: February 26th, 2020),
  • Zbigniew ZasÅ‚ona, Ewelina Flis, Mieszko M. Wilk, Luke O'Neill, and others: Caspase-11 promotes allergic airway inflammation; in: Nature Communications, 2020,

Video: Asthma (January 2023).