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1.  Prenatal, perinatal, and heritable influences on cord blood immune responses 
Maternal and perinatal environmental exposures, as well as inherited factors, may influence neonatal immune responses.
To determine relations of maternal and perinatal exposures to antigen-specific cord blood lymphoproliferative responses.
In 427 newborns from a Boston pregnancy/birth cohort, lymphoproliferative responses in cord blood mononuclear cells to stimulation with cockroach (Bla g 2), house dust mite (Der f 1), ovalbumin, and mitogen phytohemagglutinin were measured as stimulation index (SI). We used the Wilcoxon rank sum and χ2 tests to evaluate predictors of ovalbumin SI as a continuous ranked or dichotomous outcome. We used t test and Spearman correlation for univariate testing and linear regression to evaluate predictors of natural log-transformed Bla g 2, Der f 1, and phytohemagglutinin SI. Logistic multivariate regression was applied to evaluate predictors of Bla g 2, Der f 1, and phytohemagglutinin SI dichotomized at 2 or at the median for phytohemagglutinin.
Maternal smoking during pregnancy, inadequate or excessive maternal weight gain during pregnancy, neonate black race/ethnicity (compared with white), and Apgar score less than 8 were each independently associated with increased cord blood mononuclear cell proliferative responses to stimulation with Bla g 2 and/or Der f 1. Maternal history of asthma was associated only with increased lymphoproliferative response to ovalbumin stimulation.
Distinct fetal and perinatal exposures and black race/ethnicity may be associated with increased cord blood lymphoproliferative responses. The implications of these findings for future development of allergy or asthma are, as yet, unknown.
PMCID: PMC1562525  PMID: 16597079
2.  Associations of cord blood fatty acids with lymphocyte proliferation, IL-13, and IFN-γ 
Background. N-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been hypothesized to have opposing influences on neonatal immune responses that might influence the risk of allergy or asthma. However, both n-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and n-6 arachidonic acid (AA) are required for normal fetal development.
Objective. We evaluated whether cord blood fatty acid levels were related to neonatal immune responses and whether n-3 and n-6 PUFA responses differed.
Methods. We examined the relation of cord blood plasma n-3 and n-6 PUFAs (n = 192) to antigen- and mitogen-stimulated cord blood lymphocyte proliferation (n = 191) and cytokine (IL-13 and IFN-γ; n = 167) secretion in a US birth cohort.
Results. Higher levels of n-6 linoleic acid were correlated with higher IL-13 levels in response to Bla g 2 (cockroach, P = .009) and Der f 1 (dust mite, P = .02). Higher n-3 EPA and n-6 AA levels were each correlated with reduced lymphocyte proliferation and IFN-γ levels in response to Bla g 2 and Der f 1 stimulation. Controlling for potential confounders, EPA and AA had similar independent effects on reduced allergen-stimulated IFN-γ levels. If neonates had either EPA or AA levels in the highest quartile, their Der f 1 IFN-γ levels were 90% lower (P = .0001) than those with both EPA and AA levels in the lowest 3 quartiles. Reduced AA/EPA ratio was associated with reduced allergen-stimulated IFN-γ level.
Conclusion. Increased levels of fetal n-3 EPA and n-6 AA might have similar effects on attenuation of cord blood lymphocyte proliferation and IFN-γ secretion.
Clinical implications. The implications of these findings for
PMCID: PMC1508138  PMID: 16630954
Asthma; child; cord blood; cytokine; fatty acids; lymphocyte proliferation; AA: Arachidonic acid; BMI: Body mass index; CBMC: Cord blood mononuclear cell; CI: Confidence interval; DHA: Docosohexaenoic acid; EPA: Eicosapentaenoic acid; FA: Fatty acid; LA: Linoleic acid; NICU: Neonatal intensive care unit; OVA: Ovalbumin; PG: Prostaglandin; PUFA: Polyunsaturated fatty acid; SI: Stimulation index
3.  Association of Birth Weight With Asthma-Related Outcomes at Age 2 Years 
Pediatric pulmonology  2006;41(7):643-648.
Summary. Background: Although lower birth weight associated with prematurity raises the risk of asthma in childhood, few prospective studies have examined higher birth weight, and few have separated the two components of birth weight, fetal growth and length of gestation.
Objective. To examine the associations of fetal growth and length of gestation with asthma-related outcomes by age 2 years.
Methods. We studied 1,372 infants and toddlers born after 34 weeks’ gestation in Project Viva, a prospective cohort study of pregnant mothers and their children. The main outcome measures were parent report of (1) any wheezing (or whistling in the chest) from birth to age 2 years, (2) recurrent wheezing during the first 2 years of life, and (3) doctor’s diagnosis of asthma, wheeze or reactive airwaydisease (“asthma”) by age 2. We calculated gestational age from the last menstrual period or ultrasound examination, and determined birth weight for gestational age z-value (“fetal growth”) using US national reference data.
Results. Infants’ mean birth weight was 3,527 (SD, 517; range, 1,559–5,528) grams. By age 2 years, 34% of children had any wheezing, 14% had recurrent wheezing, and 16% had doctor-diagnosed asthma. After adjusting for several parent, child, and household characteristics in logistic regression models, we found that infants with birth weight ≥4,000 g were not more likely to have any wheezing (odds ratio (OR), 0.91; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.62, 1.34) or doctor-diagnosed asthma (OR, 0.80; 95% CI: 0.49, 1.31) than infants with birth weight 3,500–3,999 g. In models examining length of gestation and fetal growth separately, neither the highest nor the lowest groups of either predictor were associated with the three outcomes. Boys had a higher incidence of asthma-related outcomes than girls, and exposure to passive smoking, parental history of asthma, and exposure to older siblings were all associated with greater risk of recurrent wheeze or asthma-related outcomes at age 2 years.
Conclusion. Although male sex, exposure to smoking, parental history of asthma, and exposure to older siblingswere associated with increased riskof wheezing and asthma-related outcomes in this prospective study of children born after 34 weeks gestation, fetal growth and length of gestation were not.
PMCID: PMC1488724  PMID: 16703577
asthma; birth weight; fetal growth; length of gestation; wheezing
4.  Sequence, Haplotype, and Association Analysis of ADRβ2 in a Multiethnic Asthma Case-Control Study 
Rationale: The comprehensive evaluation of gene variation, haplotype structure, and linkage disequilibrium is important in understanding the function of β2-adrenergic receptor gene (ADRβ2) on disease susceptibility, pulmonary function, and therapeutic responses in different ethnic groups with asthma.
Objectives: To identify ADRβ2 polymorphisms and haplotype structure in white and African American subjects and to test for genotype and haplotype association with asthma phenotypes.
Methods: A 5.3-kb region of ADRβ2 was resequenced in 669 individuals from 429 whites and 240 African Americans. A total of 12 polymorphisms, representing an optimal haplotype tagging set, were genotyped in whites (338 patients and 326 control subjects) and African Americans (222 patients and 299 control subjects).
Results: A total of 49 polymorphisms were identified, 21 of which are novel; 31 polymorphisms (frequency > 0.03) were used to identify 24 haplotypes (frequency > 0.01) and assess linkage disequilibrium. Association with ratio (FEV1/FVC)2 for single-nucleotide polymorphism +79 (p < 0.05) was observed in African Americans. Significant haplotype association for (FEV1/FVC)2 was also observed in African Americans.
Conclusions: There are additional genetic variants besides +46 (Gly16Arg) that are important in determining asthma phenotypes. These data suggest that the length of a poly-C repeat (+1269) in the 3′ untranslated region of ADRβ2 may influence lung function, and may be important in delineating variation in β-agonist responses, especially in African Americans.
PMCID: PMC2648111  PMID: 16931635
asthma; β2-adrenergic receptor; β-agonist therapy; DNA polymorphisms; pharmacogenomics
5.  Cord Blood Cytokines and Acute Lower Respiratory Illnesses in the First Year of Life 
Pediatrics  2006;119(1):e171-e178.
Little is known about the relation between cytokine profile at birth and acute lower respiratory illnesses in the first year of life. The purpose of this work was to examine the relation between cytokine secretions by cord blood mononuclear cells and acute lower respiratory illness in a birth cohort of 297 children.
Cord blood mononuclear cells were isolated, and secretion of interferon-γ, interleukin-13, interleukin-10, and tumor necrosis factor-α at baseline and in response to allergens (Blatella germanica 2 and Dermatophagoides farinae 1) and mitogen (phytohemagglutinin) were quantified using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Acute lower respiratory illness was defined as a parental report of a diagnosis of bronchiolitis, pneumonia, bronchitis, and/or croup by a health care professional in the first year of life. Differences in the levels of cord blood cytokines between children with and without acute lower respiratory illness were examined using 2-sample Wilcoxon tests. Logistic regression models were used to examine the relation between various categories of cord blood cytokines and acute lower respiratory illness.
Median levels of interferon-γ secreted by cord blood mononuclear cells in response to Blatella germanica 2 and Dermatophagoides farinae 1 were higher among children without acute lower respiratory illness as compared with children with acute lower respiratory illness. After adjustment for other covariates, the odds of acute lower respiratory illness was reduced among children in the top category (at or more than the median of detectable values) of interferon-γ level, significantly so in response to Blatella germanica 2.
In a cohort of children from the general population, we found that upregulated interferon-γ secretion at birth is associated with reduced risk of acute lower respiratory illness in the first year of life.
PMCID: PMC1994927  PMID: 17145902
lower respiratory illnesses; cytokines; neonates; IFN-γ
6.  Maternal antioxidant intake in pregnancy and wheezing illnesses in children at 2 y of age2 
Low intakes of dietary antioxidants may contribute to increases in asthma and allergy.
We investigated the association of maternal total intakes (foods + supplements) of 10 antioxidant nutrients during pregnancy with wheezing and eczema in 2-y-old children.
Subjects were 1290 mother-child pairs in an ongoing cohort study. Maternal dietary and supplement intakes were assessed by using a validated food-frequency questionnaire administered in the first and second trimesters. Antioxidant nutrient intakes were calculated, and the mean for each nutrient was considered to be the exposure during pregnancy. The outcomes of interest were any wheezing by the child during either the first or second year of life, recurrent wheezing in both years, and eczema in either the first or second year.
No association was observed between maternal total intake of any antioxidant nutrient and eczema. In multivariate logistic regression models, the highest quartile compared with the lowest quartile of maternal total intakes of vitamin E [odds ratio (OR): 0.70; 95% CI: 0.48, 1.03] and zinc (OR: 0.59; 95% CI: 0.41, 0.88) was inversely associated with any wheezing at 2 y of age (P for trend = 0.06 and 0.01 over quartiles of intake for vitamin E and zinc, respectively). Similar results were obtained for recurrent wheezing at 2 y of age with vitamin E (OR: 0.49; 95% CI: 0.27, 0.90) and zinc (OR: 0.49; 95% CI: 0.27, 0.87) (P for trend = 0.05 and 0.06 over quartiles of intake for vitamin E and zinc, respectively).
Our results suggest that higher maternal total intakes of antioxidants during pregnancy may decrease the risks for wheezing illnesses in early childhood.
PMCID: PMC1994925  PMID: 17023719
Asthma; diet; antioxidants; eczema; childhood wheezing
7.  Obesity and Asthma 
Asthma and obesity are prevalent disorders, each with a significant public health impact, and a large and growing body of literature suggests an association between the two. The systemic inflammatory milieu in obesity leads to metabolic and cardiovascular complications, but whether this environment alters asthma risk or phenotype is not yet known. Animal experiments have evaluated the effects of leptin and obesity on airway inflammation in response to both allergic and nonallergic exposures and suggest that airway inflammatory response is enhanced by both endogenous and exogenous leptin. Cross-sectional and prospective cohort studies of humans have shown a modest overall increase in asthma incidence and prevalence in the obese, although body mass index does not appear be a significant modifier of asthma severity. Studying the obesity–asthma relationship in large cohorts, in which self-reports are frequently used to ascertain the diagnosis of asthma, has been complicated by alterations in pulmonary physiology caused by obesity, which may lead to dyspnea or other respiratory symptoms but do not fulfill accepted physiologic criteria for asthma. Recent investigations toward elucidating a shared genetic basis for these two disorders have identified polymorphisms in specific regions of chromosomes 5q, 6p, 11q13, and 12q, each of which contains one or more genes encoding receptors relevant to asthma, inflammation, and metabolic disorders, including the β2-adrenergic receptor gene ADRB2 and the glucocorticoid receptor gene NR3C1. Further research is warranted to synthesize these disparate observations into a cohesive understanding of the relationship between obesity and asthma.
PMCID: PMC2662903  PMID: 16627866
asthma; epidemiology; inflammation; obesity; pathogenesis
8.  Mode of delivery and cord blood cytokines: a birth cohort study 
The mechanisms for the association between birth by cesarean section and atopy and asthma are largely unknown.
To examine whether cesarean section results in neonatal secretion of cytokines that are associated with increased risk of atopy and/or asthma in childhood. To examine whether the association between mode of delivery and neonatal immune responses is explained by exposure to the maternal gut flora (a marker of the vaginal flora).
CBMCs were isolated from 37 neonates at delivery, and secretion of IL-13, IFN-γ, and IL-10 (at baseline and after stimulation with antigens [dust mite and cat dander allergens, phytohemagglutinin, and lipopolysaccharide]) was quantified by ELISA. Total and specific microbes were quantified in maternal stool. The relation between mode of delivery and cord blood cytokines was examined by linear regression. The relation between maternal stool microbes and cord blood cytokines was examined by Spearman's correlation coefficients.
Cesarean section was associated with increased levels of IL-13 and IFN-γ. In multivariate analyses, cesarean section was associated with an increment of 79.4 pg/ml in secretion of IL-13 by CBMCs after stimulation with dust mite allergen (P < 0.001). Among children born by vaginal delivery, gram-positive anaerobes and total anaerobes in maternal stool were positively correlated with levels of IL-10, and gram-negative aerobic bacteria in maternal stool were negatively correlated with levels of IL-13 and IFN-γ.
Cesarean section is associated with increased levels of IL-13 and IFN-γ, perhaps because of lack of labor and/or reduced exposure to specific microbes (e.g., gram-positive anaerobes) at birth.
PMCID: PMC1592116  PMID: 17002791
9.  Extracting principal diagnosis, co-morbidity and smoking status for asthma research: evaluation of a natural language processing system 
The text descriptions in electronic medical records are a rich source of information. We have developed a Health Information Text Extraction (HITEx) tool and used it to extract key findings for a research study on airways disease.
The principal diagnosis, co-morbidity and smoking status extracted by HITEx from a set of 150 discharge summaries were compared to an expert-generated gold standard.
The accuracy of HITEx was 82% for principal diagnosis, 87% for co-morbidity, and 90% for smoking status extraction, when cases labeled "Insufficient Data" by the gold standard were excluded.
We consider the results promising, given the complexity of the discharge summaries and the extraction tasks.
PMCID: PMC1553439  PMID: 16872495
10.  A Brief Targeted Review of Susceptibility Factors, Environmental Exposures, Asthma Incidence, and Recommendations for Future Asthma Incidence Research 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2006;114(4):634-640.
Relative to research on effects of environmental exposures on exacerbation of existing asthma, little research on incident asthma and environmental exposures has been conducted. However, this research is needed to better devise strategies for the prevention of asthma. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences held a conference in October 2004 to collaboratively discuss a future research agenda in this area. The first three articles in this mini-monograph summarize the discussion on potential putative environmental exposure; they include an overview of asthma and conclusions of the workshop participants with respect to public health actions that could currently be applied to the problem and research needs to better understand and control the induction and incidence of asthma, the potential role of indoor/outdoor air pollutants in the induction of asthma), and biologics in the induction of asthma. Susceptibility is a key concept in the U.S. EPA “Asthma Research Strategy” document and is associated with the U.S. EPA framework of protecting vulnerable populations from potentially harmful environmental exposures. Genetics, age, and lifestyle (obesity, diet) are major susceptibility factors in the induction of asthma and can interact with environmental exposures either synergistically or antagonistically. Therefore, in this fourth and last article we consider a number of “susceptibility factors” that potentially influence the asthmatic response to environmental exposures and propose a framework for developing research hypotheses regarding the effects of environmental exposures on asthma incidence and induction.
PMCID: PMC1440793  PMID: 16581558
asthma; epidemiology; genetics; hygiene hypothesis; incidence; obesity; occupational asthma; smoking; susceptibility; windows of exposure and age (in utero, childhood, adult, elderly)
11.  Neonatal immune responses to TLR2 stimulation: Influence of maternal atopy on Foxp3 and IL-10 expression 
Respiratory Research  2006;7(1):40.
Maternal atopic background and stimulation of the adaptive immune system with allergen interact in the development of allergic disease. Stimulation of the innate immune system through microbial exposure, such as activation of the innate Toll-like-receptor 2 (TLR2), may reduce the development of allergy in childhood. However, little is known about the immunological effects of microbial stimulation on early immune responses and in association with maternal atopy.
We analyzed immune responses of cord blood mononuclear cells (CBMC) from 50 healthy neonates (31 non-atopic and 19 atopic mothers). Cells were stimulated with the TLR2 agonist peptidoglycan (Ppg) or the allergen house dust mite Dermatophagoides farinae (Derf1), and results compared to unstimulated cells. We analyzed lymphocyte proliferation and cytokine secretion of CBMC. In addition, we assessed gene expression associated with T regulatory cells including the transcription factor Foxp3, the glucocorticoid-induced TNF receptor (GITR), and the cytotoxic lymphocyte antigen 4 (CTLA4). Lymphocyte proliferation was measured by 3H-Thymidine uptake, cytokine concentrations determined by ELISA, mRNA expression of T cell markers by real-time RT-PCR.
Ppg stimulation induced primarily IL-10 cytokine production, in addition to IFN-γ, IL-13 and TNF-α secretion. GITR was increased following Ppg stimulation (p = 0.07). Ppg-induced IL-10 production and induction of Foxp3 were higher in CBMC without, than with maternal atopy (p = 0.04, p = 0.049). IL-10 production was highly correlated with increased expression of Foxp3 (r = 0.53, p = 0.001), GITR (r = 0.47, p = 0.004) and CTLA4 (r = 0.49, p = 0.003), independent of maternal atopy.
TLR2 stimulation with Ppg induces IL-10 and genes associated with T regulatory cells, influenced by maternal atopy. Increased IL-10 and Foxp3 induction in CBMC of non-atopic compared to atopic mothers, may indicate an increased capacity to respond to microbial stimuli.
PMCID: PMC1435749  PMID: 16551363

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