Cure for Cat Allergies on Horizon

It looks like cat allergies will soon become a thing of the past, according to the April issue of the journal Nature.

Cat allergies ‘could be blocked’ (BBC)

Scientists say they have developed a technique which could prevent allergies caused by cats. In the UK, pets are the second most important cause of allergy in the home, and 50% of asthmatic children are allergic to cats. The University of California, Los Angeles, team combined a fragment of a human protein with a cat allergen. Nature Medicine reports mice treated with the fused protein did not develop allergic responses.

Cat allergen is present on very small particles that readily become airborne when disturbed and are easily inhaled. When a person experiences an allergic response, a chemical called IgE, produced by the immune system in response to the presence of allergens such as cat hair, binds to specific receptors on the surface of immune cells. This triggers the release of histamine in tissues in the body, causing symptoms such as itching, sneezing and a runny eyes and nose.

Other immune-based therapies rely on frequent injections of allergens, with the dose being gradually increased each time. But this is a time-consuming process, which can cause serious reactions in patients.

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Researcher Dr Andrew Saxon said: “We wanted to create a system that would prevent you from getting sick when you were exposed to an allergen, but which could also be used to retrain the immune system in the long run. “We could use the same technique to target other allergies, including peanut.”

Philippa Major, assistant director of research at Asthma UK said: “This is an interesting study but is still in the early stages of development as no human studies have begun. “This approach taken by the UCLA group does not modify the T cell response and therefore the treatment would need to be administered on a continuous basis to prevent symptoms. “Currently a different, and potentially long term prevention approach of a T cell vaccine for people with cat allergy is being developed by Asthma UK research fellow Dr Mark Larché.”

It sounds promising.

The Scotsman has a more lucidly written version: New Hope for Cat Allergy Sufferers

Scientists have made a breakthrough in efforts to prevent allergies caused by cats, it emerged today. They have developed a protein that could block the allergic response – and the technique could be adapted to other situations such as food allergies. In the research, reported in the April issue of Nature Medicine, they found that mice treated with a newly developed part-cat, part-human protein did not develop an allergic reaction.

Andrew Saxon, of the University of California in Los Angeles, said in today̢۪s Guardian newspaper that the technique could be extended to develop cures for potentially deadly allergies to food such as nuts. The allergic attacks occur when the immune system mistakes cat or pollen allergens for germs, producing large amounts of an antibody which triggers the release of a chemical called histamine. This causes symptoms such as inflammation, rashes and swelling.

Dr Saxon fused the cat allergen with a human protein that tends to slow down the immune system. The cat part causes the immune system to produce the antibody – but the human part calms the reaction, resetting the immune system.

His cure is still several years – and many clinical trials – away from becoming a mass market treatment, The Guardian noted.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Brianne McAfee says:

    The cure should not take that long to create. Several years is to long if you think about it. How many tests do you have to do on one product that could save lives and bring more pets home from animal shelters?I have two cats and my boyfriend has a cat allergy, therefore we need this cure fast. This cure would definitly sell big, especially in the U.S considering we have quite a few people with allergies and even more people with pets that put out that allergen. Thank you.
    Brianne