Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Molecule found that could decrease allergies

Many people suffer from an allergy, which is described as a hypersensitive response of the immune system towards environmental factors that do not require the body to launch a full-scale attack. Various complex and difficult molecular mechanisms are involved with such an extreme immune response. In a recent study, scientists from the University of Nottingham discovered a molecule that plays a role in the allergy process. Because it appears to be involved with toning down the allergic response, it is relevant towards developing anti-allergy strategies.

The molecule in question is dubbed DC-SIGN, and is found on immune cells that play a role in guarding the body against 'foreign invaders'. It is present on so-called antigen presenting cells. They are tasked with 'eating' all foreign material, and presenting 'signatures' of what they found to more specialized cells. However, when DC-SIGN becomes activated, it turns on a molecular pathway that leads to a decrease of the immune response.

House dust mite
DC-SIGN recognizes molecular patterns coming from house dust mite, which is something many people are allergic to. About 80 percent of the people suffering from asthma, which is also an allergy, are thought to suffer from an overactive immune response towards this little bug. Additionally, the molecule also recognizes a typical dog allergy pattern. Therefore, it seems that DC-SIGN is something that could alleviate the symptoms for patients suffering from very common forms of allergy.
What the scientists from the University of Nottingham have discovered is a molecular mechanism in immunology. That by itself does not help us much, but we may be able to turn it into a functional therapy for people suffering from certain allergies. Perhaps we can also find additional receptors that function by toning down the immune response. May be even DC-SIGN itself could recognize an additional set of molecular patterns.

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