Respiratory diseases, including allergies, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), are a major public health burden worldwide.

The latest WHO statistics (2007) estimate that 300 million people worldwide have asthma, 210 million people have COPD, and millions of people are affected by allergies. Each year, 250,000 people die of asthma. The prevalence of these diseases is increasing, and there is a continued need for new and improved therapies.

This Focus issue of Nature Reviews Immunology highlights the latest advances in our understanding of the immune bases of these respiratory diseases and how this knowledge can be translated into effective treatment strategies.

The Focus articles on this page are free to registered users until 31 March 2008.

Research Highlights

Allergy and Asthma: Calling all TH2 cells

Lucy Bird


Nature Reviews Immunology 8, 162

Allergy and Asthma: Regulation of TGFbeta1 PINned down

Olive Leavy


Nature Reviews Immunology 8, 164-165

Allergy and Asthma: What 'drives' IL-4 versus IL-13 signalling?

Kirsty Minton


Nature Reviews Immunology 8, 166-167

Allergy and Asthma: Mother knows best

Olive Leavy


Nature Reviews Immunology 8, 168



Discovering susceptibility genes for asthma and allergy

Donata Vercelli


Nature Reviews Immunology 8, 169-182

A number of susceptibility genes for asthma and allergy have been identified in recent years. Here, Donata Vercelli discusses these genes and reviews the techniques used by geneticists to identify them. She also highlights the outstanding challenges in the field.

Immunology of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Peter J. Barnes


Nature Reviews Immunology 8, 183-192

Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease both involve chronic inflammation of the lungs. But Peter Barnes explains how the inflammatory mediators and cells involved differ between the two diseases and how this affects their responsiveness to corticosteroids and other anti-inflammatory therapies.

Dendritic cells and epithelial cells: linking innate and adaptive immunity in asthma

Hamida Hammad & Bart N. Lambrecht


Nature Reviews Immunology 8, 193-204

In addition to providing a physical barrier, epithelial cells have a role in initiating and maintaining allergic responses to inhaled allergens. As discussed in this Review, epithelial cells can influence the polarization of lung dendritic cells and are themselves influenced by innate and adaptive immune responses during allergic inflammation.

IgE in allergy and asthma today

Hannah J. Gould & Brian J. Sutton


Nature Reviews Immunology 8, 205-217

Recent advances in the structural determination of IgE and its receptors and associated molecules have provided insight into the functions and regulation of IgE. This is now helping to direct the design of new IgE-targeted therapies for asthma and allergy.

Treatment strategies for allergy and asthma

Stephen T. Holgate & Riccardo Polosa


Nature Reviews Immunology 8, 218-230

Understanding the mechanisms of allergic inflammation is important for the improvement of current therapies and the development of novel therapies. This Review describes the current therapeutic strategies for allergy and asthma and highlights several innovative future strategies.


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