By Laura Tangley
New York Times
If you're a mouse, an attack of the sniffles when you scamper by a bit of cat hair maybe a good thing – an early warning system allowing a quick get-away from the predator lurking under the bed.
In the natural world, of course, mice rarely, if ever, suffer from cat allergies. But laboratory mice specially bred to be allergic to cats have been cured by researchers who have developed a novel approach to allergy treatment.
The results may lead to better therapy for millions of people who are allergic to cats, including 14 percent of children from age 6 to l9; and for the estimated 50 million Americans who suffer from some type of allergy. The new treatment, described in this month's Nature Medicine, involves linking a feline protein that causes cat allergies to a human protein that stops immune system cells from releasing histamine, the chemical that sets off allergy symptoms.
To test the therapy, the scientists, exposed the allergic mice to proteins from cat saliva or dander, then injected some of them with the human-feline protein. A simple injection “blunted the allergic response before it began,” said Dr. Christopher L. Kepley, an assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and a co-author of the report. Kepley conducted the study with scientists at UCLA.
If the therapy works as well in humans as it does in mice, Kepley said, it may lead to a “faster and safer” way to treat a variety of human allergies. The problem with traditional desensitization treatments like allergy shots, he said, is that they require multiple injections with gradually increasing doses of the allergen, which can take up to a year.