Air pollution appears to make allergies worse
New research presented at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) suggests that air pollution and climate change are involved in the increasing prevalence of allergies worldwide. According to the study, nitrogen dioxide and ground-level ozone gases appear to provoke chemical changes in certain airborne allergens. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute in Germany suggest this reaction might increase the potency of allergens.
In laboratory tests and computer simulations, the team studied the effects of various levels of ozone and nitrogen dioxide on the major birch pollen allergen, called Bet v 1. The researchers determined that ozone, which is the main component of smog, oxidizes an amino acid called tyrosine that helps form Bet v 1 proteins. This transformation sets in motion a chain of chemical reactions that involves reactive oxygen intermediates and can bind proteins together, altering their structures and their potential biological effects. When this occurs, the cross-linked proteins can become more potent allergens.
In future studies, the team plans to identify other modified allergenic proteins in the environment and hopes to study their effects on the human immune system.