A new cell type that could stop allergies before they begin has been discovered by researchers at the Australian National University (ANU).
Those who endlessly suffer from allergic conditions such as asthma, eczema and life-threatening anaphylaxis, could soon see an end to their problems.
“By carefully studying the tonsils of children undergoing routine tonsillectomies, we identified a new cell type of the immune system that may help prevent allergies,” said lead researcher and PhD scholar Pablo F. Canete.
“In allergic individuals, the immune system thinks that harmless particles like peanuts, dust or common allergens are a threat.
“The immune system then mounts a response which manifests itself from mild localised symptoms like a runny nose during hay fever season, to very aggressive systemic inflammation like anaphylaxis.”
When people experience an allergic reaction to something such as pollen, dust, peanut butter or other allergens, their immune system produces antibodies called Immunoglobulin E, (IgE) which then trigger a chain of events that result in allergic reactions.
“Our study shows this previously unknown cell prevents the formation of IgE, which is the key trigger of allergic conditions,” said Mr Canete.
“The cell stops the very first step in causing an allergic disease.
“If you don’t have excessive IgE levels, you generally do not develop allergies.”
The discovery could create a new approach for future allergy treatments – great news for Australians, who have one of the highest rates of allergies in the world.
“Around one in five Australians suffer from some form of allergic condition and there is a full spectrum of allergic diseases,” said Mr Canete.
“We know how these diseases work, but we know very little of how the immune system suppresses or regulates allergic diseases.
“It is a new way of thinking about allergies and treatment. This cell has a profound effect on the first part of the allergic reaction.”
The breakthrough cold help to develop therapies that are more targeted, says Professor Carola Vinuesa, co-director for the Centre for Personalised Immunology at ANU.
“Instead of antihistamines, which help deal with allergic reactions, we could potentially modulate the immune system and stop the reaction before it even begins,” he said.
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