There is no real cure for allergies. Sure, there are a number of treatment methods, some of which are more effective than others, and that's great. But wouldn't it be even better to know that your allergy symptoms could be knocked out for good, never to return?
New research out of Hebrew University of Jerusalem School of Pharmacy offers hope on that front. It seems that Ido Bachelet, a Ph.D. student and winner of one of this year's Barenholz Prizes for Creativity and Originality in Applied Research, has done research on how the function of mast cells is regulated. Mast cells trigger allergic reactions when they are exposed to certain substances known as allergens, such as pollen and animal dander.
The mast cells over-react to the allergen, releasing huge amounts of chemicals, such as histamine, that produce inflammation. Inflammation of the airways leads to symptoms such as a stuffy nose, rash, and airway tightening. In extreme cases, it can even lead to anaphylactic shock and death.
Bachelet has found a receptor protein on the mast cells that he calls CD300a. This receptor protein shuts down the mast cell function, keeping it from unleashing allergic responses. It might seem, then, that targeting CD300a would help us eliminate allergies.
However, because CD300a is found throughout the entire immune system, targeting it broadly might actually result in overall immune suppression. And that could have serious consequences. After all, your immune system protects you from many threats to your good health, including infection.
To overcome this problem, Bachelet and a colleague have developed a small antibody fragment that can recognize two targets at the same time — both the receptor CD300a and a mast cell-specific marker. So, the antibody will target CD300a only on the surface of mast cells, but will not suppress other immune cells.
In the study by Bachelet, this antibody eliminated four different types of allergic diseases in mice. In fact, when mice in the study group who were suffering from severe chronic asthma got nose drops containing the antibody, they completely reverted to normal, healthy mice in less than two months.
It's an exciting breakthrough, and Israeli pharmaceutical companies will be able to study it further and try to reproduce the results. It's likely a long time before this research is used on humans or will see the light of day in the U.S.; still, it's great to have hope that one day, allergies may be knocked out of our lives forever! It's definitely something I'm looking forward to.