New method of inhibiting allergic reactions developed, with no side-effects


Researchers from the University of Notre Dame, Illinois, US, have developed a way to inhibit drug, allergic and asthmatic reactions without suppressing the whole immune system.

Because it is based on a special molecule that out-competes allergens like egg or peanut proteins to bind to the mast cells, it actually prevents the reaction from taking place at all. Mast cells are a type of white blood cell and part of the body’s defence against parasites. When working normally they are attracted to, attach to and destroy any pathogens. But if functioning abnormally, they attach to the non-threatening proteins of what they perceive as allergens, such as egg or peanut proteins, and prompt allergic reactions. This dysfunction is also observed in some people with insect stings, on antibiotics or medication.

The molecule designed by the researchers, led by Michael Handlogten, is a heterobivalent ligand (HBL). Some medicines treat allergies by weakening the whole immune system response, which leaves the patient more vulnerable to developing other illnesses, but this molecule only disrupts the process whereby allergens bond with white blood cells. This would be particularly useful in an emergency where there is no time or means to gauge the patient’s extant medical issues, such as on a battlefield or in a remote location. The doctor on site would be able to administer the HBL along with, say, penicillin, without having to check whether the patient has a penicillin allergy, thus saving a life and preventing any possible allergic reaction from taking place.

Source: Chemistry & Biology

First published in October 2011

More research on the management of allergy

Top of page