Allergies, or hypersensitivities of the immune system, are more common than ever before. According to the Asthma and Allergies Foundation of America, one in five Americans suffers from an allergy from milder forms like hay fever to more severe instances, like peanut allergies which can lead to anaphylactic shock.
While medications like antihistamines can treat the symptoms of an allergic reaction, the treatment is too limited, says Prof. Ronit Sagi-Eisenberg, a cell biologist at Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine. Cells release dozens of molecules during an allergic reaction, and available medications address only a small subset. Now she and her fellow researchers are working to identify what triggers allergic reactions in the body, with the goal of stopping an allergic reaction before it starts.
The answer may lie within the Rab family, a group of 60 proteins that are known to regulate the distribution of proteins throughout the body. Along with her Ph.D. student Nurit Pereg-Azouz, Prof. Sagi-Eisenberg found that 30 of these proteins determined how cells react to an allergen, and two of these have been identified for further research as instruments of preventative medication. When the chain of events leading up to an allergic reaction can be understood, drugs can be developed to inhibit the initial reaction, explains Prof. Sagi-Eisenberg.
This research has been published in The Journal of Immunology.
Getting to the root
Allergic reactions can appear as rashes, respiratory difficulties, or swelling, but they're all caused by the same mechanism. When exposed to an allergen, the body activates the immune system. But mast cells, located throughout the body, sense that the immune system has mistakenly been activated against something that is not bacterial or viral, and they release biologically active molecules to create an inflammatory response.
So what causes mast cells to re
|Contact: George Hunka|
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