New cell discovery that could stop allergies and deadly anaphylaxis

Thursday, June 20, 2019

A new cell type that could stop allergies before they begin has been discovered by researchers at The Centre for Personalised Immunology.

In Australia, 1 in 5 people suffer from allergic conditions and this finding gives hope to people who live with a range of allergic conditions including asthma, eczema and life-threatening anaphylaxis.

“In allergic individuals, the immune system thinks that harmless particles like peanuts, dust or common allergens are a threat, and then mounts an immune response which manifests itself from mild localised symptoms like a runny nose during hay fever season, to very aggressive systemic inflammation like anaphylaxis.” said lead researcher and PhD scholar Pablo F Canete, in the ANU press release.

The cell discovered in this research prevent immune overactivity by secreting a signal to stop production of the antibody, Immunoglobulin E (IgE). It is already known that this antibody (IgE) is the key trigger of allergic reactions.

“The most striking result was obtained by looking carefully at blood and tonsil from the same research participants.” said Mr Canete.

The researchers found that individuals with a higher chance of having an allergic reaction had very little of this new cell in their blood.

The analyses have revealed that this cell type shuts down the first step that the immune system needs to mount allergic responses.

These findings expand our knowledge of how allergic conditions are controlled and regulated by our bodies.

The research was conducted in the laboratory of Professor Carola Vinuesa at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, with funding from the National Health and Medical Research council (NHMRC).

“This breakthrough could help to develop therapies that are more targeted,” said Professor Vinuesa, Co-Director for the Centre for Personalised Immunology.

“Instead of antihistamines, which help deal with allergic reactions, we could potentially modulate the immune system and stop the reaction before it even begins.”

The team analysed more than 200 tonsil tissue samples, including a cohort of 50 blood samples from the same tonsils, donated by children undergoing tonsillectomies.

It is no coincidence that tonsils contain large numbers of these cells. The tonsils are continuously exposed to harmless ingested and inhaled particles, such as foods and pollens, which are often the triggers for allergic reactions.

“All I have is gratitude for these children and their parents, as without them this important discovery would not have been possible,” said Mr Canete.

The research has been published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Pictured Above: PhD scholar Pablo F Canete