Platts-Mills, Thomas A.
Professor, Medicine: Asthma, Allergy and Immunology
Common Allergic Diseases
The studies in our laboratory are directed to understanding the role that immune responses to foreign proteins play in the common allergic diseases: asthma, rhinitis and atopic dermatitis. The research includes identification and purification of the proteins which give rise to the immune responses typical of allergic individuals. These proteins are used to both measure immune responses (IgE and IgG antibodies, as well as T cells), and to measure exposure to these common antigens in the environment of allergic individuals. The work has focused on indoor allergens and the main sources are dust mites, cats and cockroaches. For each of these, monoclonal antibodies have been developed which are used in two site immunometric assays to measure levels inside houses. Asthma is a very common problem: it affects 8 million Americans and is the most common reason for children being admitted to hospitals. Our studies on asthma have focused on several different aspects: 1. Studying random populations of asthmatics presenting to hospital to identify the relative role of IgE antibodies and exposure to allergens. 2. Detailed studies on the houses of patients to identify the form in which allergen become airborne and to develop detailed strategies for the control of exposure. 3. Studies on patients who have "intrinsic" asthma, i.e. are not allergic to inhalants, where there is increasing evidence that commensal fungi, e.g. Trichiphyton (athlete's foot) and Aspergillus (which can colonize the lung), can also act as allergens and can play a major role in asthma. The study of Trichophyton is particularly interesting because it can give rise to either immediate (IgE antibodies) or delayed hypersensitivity. Thus, there is the potential for studying in detail the factors that influence these two responses in man. In addition, these studies focus on a cause of "intrinsic asthma" which appears to be treatable, i.e. with specific antifungals.