Can’t approach a dog within ten meters without fear of anaphylactic shock? Osaka University has good news for you.
For some, the mere fact of dating a dog is a real ordeal. Not because they have a personal problem with man’s best friend, but because their body is forbidden to them with severe allergic reactions. Fortunately, science could soon provide an answer to this heartbreak in the form of an antiallergic “vaccine”.
Briefly, the allergy is the consequence of an exaggerated immune response to a normally harmless foreign element. There are already desensitization treatments that gradually reduce the violence of these reactions. Basically, the technique consists of gradually habituating the immune system by regularly exposing it to low doses of antigens.
But the effectiveness of these treatments varies widely depending on the individual. Some react to it extremely well, while others struggle to obtain the desired effects in the long term. To hope to improve it, it is necessary to aim less broadly and to concentrate more precisely on the origin of the problem.
Epitopes, the key to the problem
In the case of the dog, we know of seven different molecules that are capable of generating this immune response. However, much of this answer revolves around the precise interaction of two elements. It’s the antigen that causes the reaction, and the antibody that relentlessly tracks it down; the latter seek to attach themselves to the former in the hope of settling there in order to neutralize them, in a vast battle on the scale of the organism.
This attachment however depends on the compatibility between these two elements; very roughly, the antibody can only be fixed if it has a “lock” (the paratope) compatible with the “lock” of the antigen, which is called the epitope. To treat any pathology related to the immune response, it is therefore very important to identify precisely these famous epitopes. And this is exactly the question that a group of Japanese researchers from Osaka University is working on.
Thanks to x-ray crystallography, researchers were able to fully map Can f 1, a molecule that we hold responsible for 50 to 75% of allergic reactions to dogs. This molecular map then enabled them to isolate different epitopes from the main family of allergens known in dogs.
A first step full of promises
According to them, once isolated and purified, these epitopes could be formidably effective for “train”The immune system, as in the case of desensitization. But by targeting these structures directly, the researchers hope to propose an approach much more precise, less random, and overall much more efficient.
Obviously, the team is still a long way from being able to offer a finished product. They consider, however, that it is a first successful step for the production of a “dog allergy vaccine”. It is therefore not excluded that allergy sufferers can go frolic with their favorite canine before the end of the decade.
But there is even more interesting. Indeed, this epitope-based approach is still far from commonplace. If the concept dates from the end of the last century, it was not until 2018 to see the first conclusive work on the subject appear. As it stands, it is therefore still a fairly exploratory discipline. But it nevertheless has real potential to treat many other pathologies, such as autoimmune diseases that are sometimes extremely serious. It will therefore be very interesting to monitor their work on dogs, because they could play a pioneering role in the emergence of this vaccination technology.
The text of the study is available here.