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Chilean President's Cousin Successfully Tests Allergy 'Knockout' Technique on Mice

A doctoral student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem School of Pharmacy, who is the first cousin of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, has been conferred a prestigious research prize for developing a new approach that may help eliminate allergies like the common cold and asthma.

Chilean-born Ido Bachelet has been honoured with the Barenholz Prize, which is named for the donor of the prize money and noted researcher Prof. Yehezkel Barenholz of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, in recognition of his contribution in the development of the "knockout technique" in special "antibody nose drops" against allergies that has been tested successfully on lab mice.

Bachelet shared the award with another researcher during the Hebrew University Borad of Governors 70th meeting in Jerusalem recently. The award is given for "creativity and originality in applied research".

The Ph.D student, who is working under the supervision of Prof. Francesca Levi-Schaffer, focused his research on mechanisms that regulate the function of mast cells, the "villains" in triggering allergic reactions.

Acute symptoms like stuffy nose, rash and airway constriction, and lethal shock known from food or venom allergies occur when, as a result of exposure to allergens, mast cells react violently and release an enormous array of pro-inflammatory substances, of which histamine is a well-known example. They later on attract inflammatory cells that will maintain the response, which often persists as a chronic disease.

Bachelet's study has led to the identification of a receptor protein on mast cells, termed CD300a, which has a prominent negative effect on mast cell activity, virtually shutting down the cell from unleashing allergic responses.

The identified protein receptor is widely found throughout the immune system and, just like steroids, targeting it could result in undesired, overall immune suppressi on with serious consequences.

With a view to overcome this problem, Bachelet and his research colleague Ariel Munitz have designed a small, synthetic, antibody fragment that has the unusual ability of recognizing two targets simultaneously-the receptor CD300a and a mast cell-specific marker. This makes the antibody targets CD300a only on the surface of mast cells, avoiding suppression of other immune cells.

During the study, this antibody potently eliminated four different types of allergic diseases in mice. The researchers also noted that upon administration of the antibody in nose drops, mice suffering from sever chronic asthma completely reverted to normal in less than two months.

Termed RECEPTRA, the pioneering project presents a novel therapeutic strategy for acute and chronic allergic diseases, and is currently being licensed through Yissum, the Hebrew University's technology transfer company, to pharmaceutical companies for further development and eventual clinical trials.

Bachelet predicts that with further development, his technology may become the first line of allergy therapy in the near future.


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