Taking a Swing at Allergies
Original article posted on BioTech Primer
HOW DO ALLERGIES DEVELOP?
Watching a game at the ballpark and digging into a bag of peanuts is a source of entertainment for many Americans. For the 15 million who suffer from peanut allergies, the idea of being taken out to the ballgame elicits concern — or even anxiety.
Food allergies — think tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish — are on the rise. The mere dust particle of a freshly cracked peanut can be responsible for an unpredictable cascade of reactions, including death brought about by anaphylaxis.
This WEEKLY takes a swing at explaining how allergies develop, the current treatments, and what new products might change the way allergen desensitization therapy is delivered.
SOMETHING TO SNEEZE AT
The host of symptoms dubbed “allergies” are the end result of the immune system’s response to a normally harmless substance, as if that harmless substance were a threat. An initial allergen exposure results in the production of a class of antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). A second exposure to the allergen results in an “allergen-IgE antibody complex” These newly produced complexes bind to and activate mast cells — a type of immune cell. As the image below shows, activated mast cells send out chemical alarms in the form of histamine.