New research solves riddle of allergic reactions

February 2nd, 2009 - 1:09 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Feb 2 (IANS) A new research has solved the riddle of allergic reactions and how they may even become fatal, potentially opening the way for new allergy drugs. A study by scientists from Queen’s University of Belfast, University of Oxford and Trinity College, Dublin, shows how eotaxin, a chemical that helps immune cells locate the site of infection, blocks basic “fighter” cells from transforming into “seeker” dendritic cells, resulting in a heightened allergic response.

“Our study reveals a new role for the chemokine eotaxin in controlling immune cell types at the site of allergic reaction,” said Nigel Stevenson, a researcher. “These findings are crucial for our understanding of allergic responses and may be instrumental for the design of new allergy drugs.”

More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year, the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the country, costing more than $18 billion. The most severe type of allergic reaction is called “anaphylaxis”, which can be fatal, according to US Center for Disease Control.

Stevenson and colleagues made this discovery by using immune cells grown in the lab and from healthy volunteers. Then the researchers mimicked what occurs during an allergic reaction by treating the cells with eotaxin, which was previously believed to only attract immune cells during an allergic reaction.

Through a series of lab procedures, they tracked changes in immune cell type and found that eotaxin inhibits monocytes becoming dendritic cells (that find foreign invaders so other immune cells can neutralise them), resulting in more “fighter” cells being present during an allergic response, said an Oxford release.

This discovery shows how and why eotaxin plays an important role in the severity of allergic reactions and may be a target for an entirely new class of allergy medications.

These results were published in the February issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.

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