Cat lovers given new drug hope of 'beating their allergy to their pets'
Cat lovers allergic to their pets have been given hope of a cure after scientists developed a drug that stops reactions rather than just treat symptons.
British researchers discovered how the animals trigger allergies in different people after they isolated a part of a cell related to minute particles of cat skin.
The discovery sheds light on how the body's immune system identifies and reacts to allergens, which could pave the way in developing new ways of treating allergies ranging from sneezes to more serious asthma attacks.
A team of immunologists led Nottingham University's School of Molecular Medical Sciences identified a cell component which plays a key role in triggering allergic responses to cat dander.
They say their study could pave the way for improved treatments for asthma sufferers whose condition is worsened by cat dander, microscopic pieces of cat skin which easily become airborne and trigger attacks like the house dust mite.
"There has been a sharp increase in the prevalence of allergies over the past few decades and allergic asthma among children has reached epidemic proportions in many industrialised countries, including the UK," said Dr Amir Ghaem-Maghami, who led the study.
“Despite improvements in patient care, three people die every day in the UK from asthma, and most therapies target symptoms rather than curing the condition.
“Many people with asthma are highly sensitive to airborne allergens such as cat dander or house dust mite — in fact many studies have shown that up to 40 per cent of children with asthma are allergic to cat allergens."
Dr Ghaem-Maghami added: "A better understanding of how the interaction between allergens and the immune system leads to allergy is vital if we are to develop more effective and efficient treatments for this debilitating condition.”
An allergy is a disorder caused by the bodys immune system reacting to usually harmless substances found in the environment, known as allergens.
The body believes itself under attack and its immune system releases chemicals, including histamine, causing an inflammatory response and the classic symptoms of allergy itchy eyes, sneezing, runny nose and wheezing.
The Nottingham work has focused on the role of the mannose receptor on the surface of dendritic cells found on the skin, nose, lungs and stomach.
These cells are among the first cells in the immune system that come into contact with allergens.
The team recently found that the mannose receptor is needed for the body to recognise potential foreign invaders and plays a pivotal role not only in recognising allergens but also in provoking the bodys allergic response to them.
Dr Elaine Vickers, Research Relations Manager at Asthma UK, said: "We are delighted to see the rapid progress that Dr Ghaem-Maghami and his colleagues are making in such a complex area of research."
"This is a great example of where Asthma UKs research funding is leading to a better understanding of asthma which could ultimately benefit thousands of people with both asthma and allergies."
The research was recently published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.