In the middle of the 1960’s the Mayo Allergic Diseases Research Laboratory (ADRL), under the direction of Dr. Gerald J. Gleich, M.D., set its goal to understand the eosinophil’s role in asthma and allergies. Researchers began by isolating and purifying eosinophils taken from guinea pigs. Next, they identified the proteins in these eosinophil granules; the predominant one was named the eosinophil Major Basic Protein (MBP). The research moved next to human eosinophils. In the 1970’s and 1980’s Mayo researchers isolated and characterized four protein molecules in the eosinophil granules, and they identified and sequenced the genes for these proteins. In the late 1980’s and 1990’s attention shifted to the question: Why are eosinophils and MBP so abundant at the sites of damage in asthma? Observations of other damaged tissues in diseases, such as skin in atopic dermatitis and nasal polyps in chronic rhinosinusitis, also revealed abundant eosinophilia or MBP or both in these tissues. Eosinophils are also toxic to certain parasites, likely a helpful and not a damaging role. The ultimate goal for the laboratory is to devise novel and more effective therapeutic strategies to improve the treatment of patients with asthma and other allergic diseases. A major focus is to understand the biomolecular processes that increase the numbers of eosinophils and activate the toxic capabilities of this cell.
After Dr. Gleich’s retirement from the Mayo Clinic Rochester in 2001, Dr. Hirohito Kita became the leader of the Allergic Diseases Research Laboratory. Dr. Kita had been a visiting scientist starting in 1989, and began his own independent research in the Allergic Diseases Research Laboratory in 1994.
The Allergic Diseases Research Laboratory provides laboratory-based training for resident (fellow) physicians in the Department of Medicine, Division of Allergic Diseases, and for physicians in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology. It also has had an NIH training grant in Allergic Diseases since the early 1980’s and as a member of the Department of Immunology has graduate students participating in their research training and education.