The worldwide incidence, morbidity, and mortality of allergic asthma are increasing. The pathophysiological features of allergic asthma are thought to result from the aberrant expansion of CD4+ T cells producing the type 2 cytokines interleukin-4 (IL-4) and IL-5, although a necessary role for these cytokines in allergic asthma has not been demonstrable. The type 2 cytokine IL-13, which shares a receptor component and signaling pathways with IL-4, was found to be necessary and sufficient for the expression of allergic asthma. IL-13 induces the pathophysiological features of asthma in a manner that is independent of immunoglobulin E and eosinophils. Thus, IL-13 is critical to allergen-induced asthma but operates through mechanisms other than those that are classically implicated in allergic responses.
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