'Knockout' technique tested successfully on mice

June 27, 2007
'Knockout' technique tested successfully on mice

Allergies, like the common cold and asthma, have basically defied the best efforts of modern medicine to cure them. Now, a doctoral candidate at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem School of Pharmacy has come up with a new approach that offers hope for getting rid of them.

For his efforts, Chilean-born Ido Bachelet, a first cousin of the president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, and a Ph.D. student under the supervision of Prof. Francesca Levi-Schaffer, has been named the winner of one of this year’s Barenholz Prizes for Creativity and Originality in Applied Research. The award, named for its donor, Yehezkel Barenholz, the Dr. Daniel Gof Cancer Re. Miller Professor search at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, was presented recently during the Hebrew University Board of Governors 70th meeting.

Bachelet’s research has focused on mechanisms that regulate the function of mast cells – the “villains” in triggering allergic reactions. When exposed to allergens, mast cells react violently and release an enormous array of pro-inflammatory substances, of which histamine is a well known example. These substances lead to acute symptoms ranging from stuffy nose, rash, and airway constriction to the lethal shock known from food or venom allergies. Later on, they attract inflammatory cells that will maintain the response, which often persists as a chronic disease.

Although allergies are usually not perceived as lethal, reality is different. In 2005, over 250,000 people died from asthma worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that this rate will increase by 20 percent within the next decade if urgent action is not taken. Asthma is the most common chronic disease among children.

Bachelet has identified a receptor protein on mast cells, termed CD300a. This receptor has a prominent negative effect on mast cell activity, virtually shutting down the cell from unleashing allergic responses. Unfortunately, CD300a is widely found throughout the immune system, and simply targeting it could result in undesired, overall immune suppression with serious consequences, as can happen with steroids.

In order to overcome this problem, Bachelet and his research colleague, Ariel Munitz, have designed a small, synthetic, antibody fragment that has the unusual ability of recognizing two targets simultaneously -- the receptor CD300a and a mast cell-specific marker. Thus, the antibody targets CD300a only on the surface of mast cells, avoiding suppression of other immune cells. This antibody potently eliminated four different types of allergic diseases in mice. Moreover, when mice suffering from severe chronic asthma received the antibody in nose drops, they completely reverted to normal, healthy mice in less than two months.

This pioneering project, termed RECEPTRA, presents a novel therapeutic strategy for acute and chronic allergic diseases, and is currently being licensed through Yissum, the Hebrew University’s technology transfer company, to pharmaceutical companies for further development and eventual clinical trials.

Based on its enormous potential, Bachelet and his team predict that with further development, their technology will become the first line of allergy therapy in the near future.

Source: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Thousands of new microbial communities identified in human body

September 20, 2017
A new study of the human microbiome—the trillions of microbial organisms that live on and within our bodies—has analyzed thousands of new measurements of microbial communities from the gut, skin, mouth, and vaginal microbiome, ...

Study finds immune system is critical to regeneration

September 20, 2017
The answer to regenerative medicine's most compelling question—why some organisms can regenerate major body parts such as hearts and limbs while others, such as humans, cannot—may lie with the body's innate immune system, ...

Immune cells produce wound healing factor, could lead to new IBD treatment

September 20, 2017
Specific immune cells have the ability to produce a healing factor that can promote wound repair in the intestine, a finding that could lead to new, potential therapeutic treatments for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), according ...

As men's weight rises, sperm health may fall

September 20, 2017
(HealthDay)—A widening waistline may make for shrinking numbers of sperm, new research suggests.

Researchers find way to convert bad body fat into good fat

September 19, 2017
There's good fat and bad fat in our bodies. The good fat helps burn calories, while the bad fat hoards calories, contributing to weight gain and obesity. Now, new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. ...

New model may help science overcome the brain's fortress-like barrier

September 19, 2017
Scientists have helped provide a way to better understand how to enable drugs to enter the brain and how cancer cells make it past the blood brain barrier.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.