High-altitude climate therapy reduces local airway inflammation and modulates lymphocyte activation

Scand J Immunol. 2006 Apr;63(4):304-10. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3083.2006.01739.x.


High-altitude climate therapy is a well-established therapeutic option, which improves clinical symptoms in asthma. However, little is known about the underlying immunological mechanisms. The study investigates the influence of high-altitude climate therapy on airway inflammation and cellular components of specific and unspecific immune response. Exhaled NO significantly decreased within 3 weeks of therapy in patients with allergic and intrinsic, moderate and severe asthma. Interleukin-10 (IL-10)-secreting peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) increased within 3 weeks of therapy in six of 11 patients, whereas transforming growth factor-beta(1)-secreting PBMC remained stable. Furthermore, monocyte activation, assessed by CD80 expression significantly decreased during therapy. The frequency of CRTH2-expressing T cells decreased, while regulatory T cells (T(reg)) remained stable. FOXP3 and GATA-3 mRNA expression in CD4(+) T cells did not change, while interferon-gamma and IL-13 mRNA expression decreased in eight of 10 patients. The current data demonstrate that high-altitude climate therapy reduces local airway inflammation. Furthermore, monocytes switch towards a tolerogenic phenotype under high-altitude climate therapy. The T(reg)/Th2 ratio increases; however, because of the absence of antigens/allergens, no de novo differentiation of Th2 nor T(reg) cells is observed. The high-altitude climate therapy therefore may form the immunological basis for the endogenous control of allergen-driven diseases.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Altitude*
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Asthma / metabolism
  • Asthma / therapy*
  • Bronchitis / therapy
  • Climate*
  • GATA3 Transcription Factor
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / blood
  • Interleukin-10 / blood
  • Interleukin-13 / blood
  • L-Selectin / blood
  • Lymphocyte Activation*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nitric Oxide / analysis
  • Receptors, Immunologic / blood
  • Receptors, Prostaglandin / blood
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology
  • Transcription Factors / blood
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / blood


  • GATA3 Transcription Factor
  • GATA3 protein, human
  • Interleukin-13
  • Receptors, Immunologic
  • Receptors, Prostaglandin
  • Transcription Factors
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • L-Selectin
  • Interleukin-10
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Interferon-gamma
  • prostaglandin D2 receptor