You've heard the commercials for allergy treatments; they all promise relief from the symptoms of allergies. But now, researchers from the University of Nottingham in the UK have found the secret to what causes a very common allergy - cat allergies. Their discovery could lead to a whole new class of drugs that attack allergies at their first point of contact, so that symptoms of allergy and asthma never develop at all.
Cat dander, the microscopic flakes of a cat's skin, causes the most common pet allergy. What the Nottingham epidemiologists, led by Dr. Amir Ghaemmaghami, discovered is a single protein in human dendritic cells that is affected by cat dander. That cell, isolated, is the first affected by the cat allergens, and is the first cell in the chain reaction of symptoms... the itchy, watery eyes, sneezes, rashes, asthma symptoms, et al. These allergy-susceptible dendritic proteins are the mannose receptors,and the researchers found that they are not only susceptible to cat allergens, but dog allergens, dust mites and, possibly, hay fever and other allergens. The mannose receptors are found on the skin and in the nose, lungs, and stomach.
Ghaemmaghami and his team, whose study is published in the journal The Journal of Biological Chemistry, are already at work on several possible drug solutions aimed at attacking the allergens at the first point of entry, hoping to keep the symptoms at bay, or at least to a minimum.