Researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark have found a way to use antibodies to stop common allergic reactions from happening. This development could be life-changing for many people.
As reported in Nature Communications, the researchers have studied the human allergy antibody (IgE) and how it attaches itself to cells. This is the trigger mechanism for the production of histamine, which is the crux of allergic reactions. The researchers looked at the biochemical mechanism that links the IgE to effectors cells and discovered that a different antibody can instead take its place.
In laboratory tests, the team used the blood of patients allergic to birch pollen and insect venom and started an allergic reaction while introducing the competitor antibody. It only took 15 minutes to disrupt the interaction between allergy molecules and immune cells.
"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," senior author Professor Edzard Spillner said in a statement.
The team believes that this allergy approach can be applied to other types of allergies as well, not just pollen and insect venom. Researchers estimate that 50 million people in the United States are affected by nasal allergies, and worldwide 250 million are affected by often deadly peanut allergies.
“We can now precisely map how the antibody prevents binding of IgE to its receptors. This allows us to envision completely new strategies for engineering medicine of the future," corresponding author Professor Nick Laursen added.
One of the interesting findings of the study is that the antibody is much smaller than the antibodies currently used in allergy medicine.
"It is a so-called single domain antibody which is easily produced in processes using only microorganisms. It is also extremely stable, and this provides new opportunities for how the antibody can be administered to patients,” explained co-author Edzard Spillner.
The team thinks the antibodies don’t need to be injected but could be swallowed or inhaled, which would make such therapy a lot easier for sufferers. It is still early days for this though. Clinical trials will have to be conducted to make sure that the approach is effective and more importantly safe for humans.