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Kääriö, H.; Huttunen, K.; Karvonen, A. M.; Schaub, B.; Mutius, E. von; Pekkanen, J.; Hirvonen, M.-R. and Roponen, M. (2016): Exposure to a farm environment is associated with T helper 1 and regulatory cytokines at age 4.5 years. In: Clinical and Experimental Allergy, Vol. 46, No. 1: pp. 71-77

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Background Farm exposure has been shown to protect from childhood asthma and allergic diseases, but underlying immunological mechanisms are not clear yet. Objective To explore whether farming lifestyle determines cytokine profile of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of 4.5-year-old children (n = 88) from the Finnish PASTURE birth cohort study. Methods We analysed regulatory (IL-10, IL-2), T helper 1 (Th1)-associated (IL-12, IFN-gamma), inflammatory (IL-1 beta, TNF, CXCL8) and Th2-associated (IL-13) cytokines in unstimulated PBMCs and after a short-term (5 h) stimulation with lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Specific farm exposures (stables, hay barn, farm milk) at age 4 years were assessed from questionnaires. Results The unstimulated PBMCs of farm children produced more IL-10 (GMR 1.22, P = 0.032), IL-12 (GMR 1.24, P = 0.012) and IFN-gamma (GMR 1.24, P = 0.024) than those of non-farm children. Also, specific farm exposures were associated with higher spontaneous production of cytokines. The number of specific farm exposures tended to be dose dependently associated with higher spontaneous production of IFN-gamma (test for trends, P = 0.013) and lower LPS-induced production of TNF (test for trends, P = 0.025). Conclusion and Clinical Relevance Farming lifestyle seemed to be associated with increased spontaneous production of Th1 and regulatory cytokines. Decreased TNF responses to short-term LPS stimulation in farm-exposed children may imply tolerogenic immune mechanisms. These novel findings might contribute to the asthma and allergy protection in farm environment.

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