Scientists think they’ve found a way to stop allergic reactions before they happen

A type of immunoglobulin antibody. Credit: Kateryna Kon / Shutterstock.

If you are one of the thousands of Americans who suffer from coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, a runny nose, a scratchy throat, rashes, hives, or asthma attacks due to an allergy, you will be very pleased to find out that help is on the way.

Scientists at Aarhus University in Denmark say they have found a way to use antibodies to stop those nasty allergic reactions from happening.

The researchers expect that their scientific results will pave the way to developing completely new types of allergy medicine.

The findings, published in Nature Communications, suggest that people who are allergic to birch pollen and insect venom could be treated with a particular antibody that can prevent an allergic reaction from happening altogether.

The new approach for antibody-based treatment of allergy and asthma is regarded as a breakthrough that could have a major impact on development of new medicine in years to come.

According to a statement, the team of researchers from the Departments of Engineering and Molecular Biology and Genetics together with German researchers from Marburg/Giessen were hoping to find new methods to improve existing treatments, but instead they were able to identify how a specific antibody is apparently able to completely deactivate the allergic processes.

The scientist found the antibody follows a complex biochemical process in the human body by which it prevents the human allergy antibody (IgE) from attaching to cells, thus keeping all allergic symptoms from occurring.

That is fantastic news for all people who live with allergies. No more greeting the day with endless sneezing and coughing. No more itching hives.

“We can now describe the interaction of this antibody with its target and the conformational changes very accurately. This allows us to understand, how it interferes with the IgE and its specific receptors on the immune cells of the body, which are responsible for releasing histamine in an allergic reaction,” states Edzard Spillner, associate professor at the Department of Engineering, Aarhus University.

You may be wondering: why do some people have allergic reactions to apparently harmless substances like dust, cat hair or peanuts?

In an allergic reaction the immune system completely overreacts to something that doesn’t trouble most people.

If you are allergic to beestings and you get stung, your immune system overreacts and produces disproportionately huge amounts of a specific type of antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE)

It is these chemicals that cause those miserable allergy symptoms, including the serious reactions associated with severe food allergies and insect bites.

Common allergy treatments target these immune system compounds or their receptors, thereby minimizing the allergy symptoms.

That’s all good and well, but wouldn’t it be better to completely prevent any allergic reaction from happening?

This magic is what the new approach, namely targeting IgE itself, aims to achieve.

According to the statement, the function of the antibody is that it interferes with binding of IgE to the two specific effector (CD23 and FceRI) on the immune cells, thereby making it impossible for the allergy molecule to bind.

The researchers noticed that the antibody also removes the IgE molecules even after binding to its receptors.

“Once the IgE on immune cells can be eliminated, it doesn’t matter that the body produces millions of allergen-specific IgE molecules. When we can remove the trigger, the allergic reaction and symptoms will not occur,” says Edzard Spillner.

The researchers have conducted ex vivo experiments with blood cells from patients allergic to birch pollen and insect venom. However, the method can be transferred to virtually all other allergies and asthma, says the statement.

The researchers are optimistic that their research results will lead to the development of new types of allergy medicine.

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