Scientists’ Curiosity May Have Killed the Cat Allergy
A new chemical compound, part cat and part human, may provide an end to misery-making cat allergies, U.S. researchers reported this week in the journal Nature Medicine.
They said their approach in creating the compound might work against more dangerous allergies, such as deadly reactions to peanuts.
The compound, tested in mice bred to be allergic to cats, virtually shut down the histamine reaction that caused the uncomfortable symptoms of cat allergies such as runny eyes, sneezing and itching, Dr. Andrew Saxon of UCLA and his colleagues reported.
“This novel approach to treating cat allergies is encouraging news for millions of cat-allergic Americans,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which paid for the study. “Moreover, these results provide proof-of-concept for using this approach to develop therapies to prevent deadly food allergy reactions as well.”
Allergies are caused when the immune system reacts to allergens -- pieces of protein found in food, on animals or produced by plants. One response is the production of histamine, which can cause wheezing, itching, watery eyes and sometimes asthma.
The compound stopped this process. It used pieces of an allergy-provoking protein found in cat saliva or dander called Fel d1, tied to a piece of human antibody called IgG Fcg1. The UCLA team named it GFD, or gamma Feline domesticus.
The cat allergen part attached to antibodies on the surface of the immune system cells that produced histamine, while the human bit stopped the cell from getting started.