Allergic asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases in western society, characterized by variable airway obstruction, mucus hypersecretion and infiltration of the airway wall with T-helper type 2 (Th2) cells, eosinophils and mast cells. If we are to devise new causal therapies for this disease, it is important to elucidate how Th2 cells are activated and respond to intrinsically harmless allergens. Dendritic cells (DCs) are the most important antigen-presenting cells in the lung and are mainly recognized for their exceptional potential to generate a primary immune response and sensitization to aeroallergens. Much less attention has been paid to the role of DCs in established inflammation. Based on functional studies in a murine model for asthma, in this review article, we propose that DCs are essential for generating allergen-specific effector Th2 responses in ongoing inflammation in sensitized mice. A better understanding of the role of DCs in the maintenance of the inflammatory response to allergens in asthma should lead to new therapeutic approaches intervening at the top of the inflammatory cascade.
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