More than 100 million Americans have allergies. Traditional ways to treat it include antihistamines and dietary changes. But now, researchers have discovered a new approach that could someday eliminate them.
An allergy is an abnormal immune response to substances that are typically harmless - like pollen, dust mites or certain foods. In other words, all that coughing and sneezing and wheezing is your immune system reacting to things your body hates.
"We are exposed to allergens. We mount a specific kind of immune response - it's called a Type 2 response, " explained Dr. Justine Tigno-Arajuez, assistant professor of medicine at Burnett School of Biomedical Science at the University of Central Florida.
Current medications are designed to fight this response, but what if you could shut it down before it starts?
Tigno-Aranjuez and her team are looking into redefining allergy treatment with a technique called LRC-TriCEPS. Researchers found that when a common protein receptor called LMAN1 binds with an allergen, such as dust mites, it causes an allergic reaction on the cell surface. This discovery - keeping allergen receptors from reacting in the first place - was groundbreaking.
"We have the potential to, potentially, you know, modify the disease course, or there's a potential for it to have a greater effect than just trying to, basically, suppress the symptoms," Dr. Tigno-Aranjuez said.
Now, the team is conducting research to confirm if their hypothesis works in the same way with other common allergens, such as pollen.
Experts hope the discovery can lead to new therapies to stop allergies before they start, so that people can continue to do the same activities they did before without worrying about an allergy attack.