Scientists are one step closer to resolving your allergies. New studies have found that certain immune cells are responsible for causing allergic reactions to harmless things such as pollen, peanuts, and dander. Understanding where these allergens come from allows scientists to dive deeper into cures for them.

Depiction of a person suffering from Allergic Rhinitis

How Do Allergies Develop?

Allergies occur when the antibody IgE is released on innocuous proteinsIgE is produced by memory B cells. It is designed to ward off bacterial infections and neutralize toxins. However, sometimes it triggers an immune response to harmless substances. When a person is first exposed to an allergen, they release a large amount of IgE. The next time they are exposed to the allergen, they may have an allergic reaction. Specific memory B cells called MBC2s are responsible for remembering the proteins that spark the allergic reactions. As we learned in AP Biology, when the immune system is triggered, large amounts of responses occur in the body. The body will physically respond with symptoms such as hives, fever, or even anaphylactic shock. These symptoms are in parallel to symptoms of allergic reactions. These symptoms are in an attempt to rid the body of the invader. Inside of the body, the response begins with proteins on macrophages displaying the invader antigen and releases cytokines. T helper cells recognize the antigen and trigger an attack response. T killer cells kill infected cells while B plasma cells secrete antibodies to bind and neutralize the invader. The macrophages then eat and destroy it. Finally, T memory cells prevent reinfection while B memory cells patrol the plasma to prevent reinfection. This entire response occurs to people with allergies when there is a non-threatening pathogen in the system. 

Primary immune response 1

The Studies

Immunologist Joshua Koenig studied 90,000 people with allergies and their B-memory cells. He used RNA sequencing to find the specific memory-B cells, MBC2s, making the antibodies responsible for immune responses against parasitic worms and allergies. In people with peanut allergies, Koenig found an increased amount of MBC2s and an enhanced amount of IgE antibodies. 


In immunologist Maria Curotto de Lafaille’s study, she sampled children with and without allergies. She also found that children with allergies have more MBC2 cells than children without allergies. She found that cells switch from making protective IgE antibodies to allergy causing ones. Before the switch, cells made IgE, but not the protein. The RNA enables the antibody to switch the type of antibody it makes when it encounters an allergen. The signal switch depends on a protein called JAK. Stopping JAK production could prevent memory cells from switching to IgE production in contact with allergens. 


The Future

If scientists can find a way to manage the production of IgEs when in contact with harmless allergens, we could be looking at a potential cure for allergies! Would you participate in a treatment for allergies if it was applicable to you?

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