In a study published in the renowned Journal of Clinical Investigation,* researchers from Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz have elucidated an endogenous mechanism that could restrict allergy development by demonstrating that the killer dendritic cells of the immune system have the ability to eliminate allergy cells. The study findings offer a new outlook for strategies to protect against allergies.
An allergen is a foreign substance that causes an allergic reaction on contact with an organism, by eliciting an excessive immune response. It is a well-known fact that repeated exposure to low doses of allergens can lead the body to develop a kind of immunity by a process known as “low zone tolerance.”
The precise mechanism that forms the basis of this immunity is still unknown. For the first time, this study employed a mouse model to interpret important cellular mechanisms. The study was a collaborative effort between the research team led by Prof. Marcus Maurer from the Charité Allergy Center as well as the Mainz research team led by Prof. Kerstin Steinbrink.
On contact with allergens, killer dendritic cells release a certain semiochemical known as the tumor necrosis factor that stimulates programmed cell death, or apoptosis, in cells that facilitate an allergic reaction, thereby limiting the development of an allergic reaction. The very different personal degrees of ability to develop this “low zone tolerance” are probably also the reason why some individuals react to certain allergens and others do not.
Prof. Maurer says, “The results of the study are basically of relevance to everyone. Especially people who have greater contact with allergenic substances run the risk of developing an allergy some day.” For example, they include people working at hair salons, the jewelry and fashion industries, as well as hospital staff.
Prof. Maurer explains, “In our research paper we identified the mechanism on which the prevention of an allergy is based.”
Researchers conclude that study findings can be used to develop future therapies to prevent allergies.