British scientists have discovered how allergic reactions to cats are triggered, raising hopes of preventative medicine.
A University of Cambridge team has identified how the body’s immune system detects cat allergen, leading to symptoms such as coughing and sneezing.
New treatments to block this pathway raise hopes of developing medicines to protect sufferers, they say.
British scientists have discovered how allergic reactions to cats are triggered, raising hopes of preventative medicine
Researchers led by Dr. Clare Bryant of the University of Cambridge studied proteins found in particles of cat skin, known as cat dander, which is the most common cause of cat allergy.
They found that cat allergen activates a specific pathway in the body, once in the presence of a common bacterial toxin.
This triggers a large immune response in allergy sufferers, causing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, sneezing and a runny nose.
Dr. Clare Bryant said: “We’ve discovered how the cat allergy proteins activate the host immune cells.
“By understanding the triggering mechanism, there are now drugs that have been designed that are in clinical trials for other conditions, such as sepsis, that could potentially then be used in a different way to treat cat allergy and to prevent cat allergy.”
Allergic reactions happen when the immune system overreacts to a perceived danger.
Instead of responding to a harmful virus or bacteria, it misidentifies allergens, such as cat dander, and mounts an immune response.
The research was funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council.
Vast numbers of cells that can attack cancer and HIV have been grown in the lab, and could potentially be used to fight disease.
The cells naturally occur in small numbers, but it is hoped injecting huge quantities back into a patient could turbo-charge the immune system.
The Japanese research is published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.
Experts said the results had exciting potential, but any therapy would need to be shown to be safe.
The researchers concentrated on a type of white blood cell known as a cytotoxic T-cell, which can recognize telltale markings of infection or cancer on the surfaces of cells. If a marking is recognized, it launches an attack.
Teams at the University of Tokyo and the Riken Research Centre for Allergy and Immunology used advances in stem cell technology to make more T-cells.
One group extracted T-cells which targeted a patient’s skin cancer. Another group did the same for HIV.
These T-cells were converted into stem cells, which could dramatically increase in number when grown in the laboratory. These were converted back into T-cells which should also have the ability to target the cancer or HIV.
The groups have proved only that they can make these cells, not that they can be safely put back into patients or that if would make a difference to their disease if they did.
Vast numbers of cells that can attack cancer and HIV have been grown in the lab, and could potentially be used to fight disease
Dr. Hiroshi Kawamoto, who worked on the cancer immune cells at Riken, said: “The next step will be to test whether these T-cells can selectively kill tumor cells, but not other cells in the body.
“If they do, these cells might be directly injected into patients for therapy. This could be realized in the not-so-distant future.”
Dr. Hiromitsu Nakauchi from the University of Tokyo said it was “unclear” whether this technique would help in treating HIV and that other infections and cancer may be a better place to start.
Experts in the field said the findings were encouraging.
Prof. Alan Clarke, the director of the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute at Cardiff University, said: “This is a potentially very exciting development which extends our capacity to develop novel cell therapies.”
He said it was important that cells could be tailored for each patient so there would be no risk of rejection.
Other experts said the findings were still at an early stage, but were still very promising and represented a strong foundation for future research. However, Cancer Research UK said it was still too early to know if any therapy would be safe.
Prof. Sir John Burn, from the Institute of Genetic Medicine at Newcastle University, said: “This is a very appealing concept and the research team are to be congratulated on demonstrating the feasibility of expanding these killer cells.”
However he added: “Even if these T cells are effective, it could prove very challenging to produce large quantities safely and economically.
“Nevertheless, there is real promise of this becoming an alternative when conventional therapies have failed.”
Vitamin B3 could be the new weapon in the fight against resistant bugs such as MRSA, a new research has suggested.
US experts found B3, also known as nicotinamide, boosts the ability of immune cells to kill Staphylococcus bacteria.
B3 increases the numbers and efficacy of neutrophils, white blood cells that can kill and eat harmful bugs.
The study, in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, could lead to a “major change in treatment”.
Vitamin B3 was tested on Staphylococcal infections, such as the potentially fatal MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).
Vitamin B3 was tested on Staphylococcal infections, such as the potentially fatal MRSA
Such infections are found in hospitals and nursing homes, but are also on the rise in prisons, the military and among athletes.
The scientists used extremely high doses of B3 – far higher than that obtained from dietary sources – in their tests, carried out both on animals and on human blood.
And the researchers say there is as yet no evidence that dietary B3 or supplements could prevent or treat bacterial infections.
The researchers say B3 appears to be able to “turn on” certain antimicrobial genes, boosting the immune cells’ killing power.
Prof. Adrian Gombart, of Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute, who worked on the research, said: “This is potentially very significant, although we still need to do human studies.
“Antibiotics are wonder drugs, but they face increasing problems with resistance by various types of bacteria, especially Staphylococcus aureus.
“This could give us a new way to treat Staph infections that can be deadly, and might be used in combination with current antibiotics.
“It’s a way to tap into the power of the innate immune system and stimulate it to provide a more powerful and natural immune response.”
Prof. Mark Enright, of the University of Bath, said: “Neutrophils are really the front line against infections in the blood and the use of nicotinamide seems safe at this dose to use in patients as it is already licensed for use.
“This could cause a major change in treatment for infections alongside conventional antibiotics to help bolster patients immune system.
“I would like to see in patient clinical trials but cannot see why this couldn’t be used straight away in infected patients.”