Biology

Immune system discovery could lead to preventative drugs for allergies

A newly-discovered mechanism in the immune system could pave the way for preventative drugs for allergic reactions
A newly-discovered mechanism in the immune system could pave the way for preventative drugs for allergic reactions
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A newly-discovered mechanism in the immune system could pave the way for preventative drugs for allergic reactions
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A newly-discovered mechanism in the immune system could pave the way for preventative drugs for allergic reactions

The immune system is incredibly important, thanks to its role in fighting off dangerous invaders in our bodies. But sometimes it gets it wrong, targeting harmless proteins from things like nuts or dairy products and triggering allergic reactions that ironically can themselves be fatal. Now, researchers from Michigan State University have identified a mechanism that helps keep the immune system in check, potentially paving the way for drugs that could prevent allergic reactions before they start.

Currently, our best methods for dealing with allergies are just to avoid triggering substances, or failing that, using an EpiPen to lessen the reaction. But possible future treatments could include probiotics that keep allergens from getting into the bloodstream, skin patches that slowly desensitize the immune system to the offending proteins, nasal sprays that act like allergy vaccines, or even gene therapy injections that "turn off" the allergic response.

The new method identified by the Michigan State team could join that list. The researchers found what they call a control mechanism that can regulate the immune system's reaction to a foreign substance.

Mast cells are a type of immune cell that release chemicals like histamines in response to stressful conditions such as invading proteins, viruses or bacteria. The problem is that sometimes this goes into overdrive, releasing far too much and triggering the severe reaction. The new study found that this process is regulated by a cell receptor known as corticotropin-releasing factor 2 (CRF2).

"What we found is that the CRF2 receptor can act as an inhibitor, or a control point, in mast cells, which prevents them from becoming over-activated," says Adam Moeser, lead author of the study. "Up until now, no one has really understood the exact role this particular receptor plays on these important cells."

To test the function of the CRF2 receptor, the team isolated mast cells from mice, pigs and humans and blocked its function using drugs. Doing so increased the amounts of histamine released. That suggests that developing drugs that can do the opposite – ramp up the function of CRF2 – could be an effective way to regulate histamine levels and prevent allergic reactions.

"There's still more we want to know, like what factors – whether a person's sex or different types of stress – are involved in how this particular receptor works," says Moeser. "But now that we know the critical role it plays, a pharmaceutical company could potentially develop a drug that targets these specific cells. That would be the ultimate goal."

The research was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Source: Michigan State University

2 comments
esecallum
I am amazed that most people and doctors don't realize that phramacological doses of vitamin d can stop the inflammation caused by these allergies and there is no need for another drug. Pharmacological doses range from 50000 to 500000 i.u daily.
esecallum
Allergies can be controlled very easily.Below are just some of the papers that indicate insufficent levels of vitamin d are the cause:- Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) risk reduced 20 percent for each 100 IU of vitamin D during early pregnancy – Feb 2016 Increase in vitamin D deficiency may partially explain increases in asthma and allergies – Jan 2015 Allergies and asthma – overwhelming experimental evidence that vitamin D helps – more studies needed – Dec 2014 Allergies and low vitamin D strongly associated with night shift bakers– Sept 2014 Vitamin D, Vitamin A, or Vitamin E association with allergies and asthma – Feb 2012 Hypothesis: Allergic diseases have increased because of decreased vitamin D – Oct 2014 Less sun (less vitamin D) more anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) – June 2014 2X more allergies if 11th womb week was in Spring – Vitamin D or pollen Oct 2010 Is Vitamin D Supplementation Responsible for the Allergy Pandemic – May 2012 Search VitaminDWiki for ALLERGY (CAT OR DOG OR PET OR DANDER) 240 items as of March 2018 Items in both categories Autoimmune and Infant/Child are listed here: Food allergy is linked to season of birth, sun exposure, and vitamin D deficiency – Jan 2019 Childhood Food Allergies (UK 1 in 14) – huge recent increase (low vitamin D) - Dec 2018 Food allergies are associated with Vitamin D thru genes, etc. – March 2018 Food allergies in children may be due to earlier low Vitamin D, Omega-3 and Zinc – Aug 2017 T1 Diabetes associated with many other autoimmune diseases (all related to low vitamin D) – May 2017 Infant allergy to cow’s milk will go away if have high levels of vitamin D – Jan 2017 Food allergies and low vitamin D – thymus may be the connection – June 2016 Food allergies 6 times higher in South Australia - 2009 Hypothesis – Australia has highest rate of food allergy due to avoiding the sun – Sept 2015 Food allergy 12X more likely if low vitamin D and vitamin D binding gene problem – Aug 2015