A gene responsible for allergic diseases has been found by scientists in Munich, Germany.
Experts at the Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen, who worked in collaboration with colleagues from the Technische Universitat Munchen, have revealed that the gene was localized using cutting edge technologies for examining the whole human genome.
The researchers say that the gene called FCER1A encodes the alpha chain of high affinity IgE receptor, which plays a major role in controlling allergic responses.
Dr. Stephan Weidinger of the Technische Universitat Munchen and Dr. Thomas Illig from the Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen say that certain variations of this gene decisively influence the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies, elevated levels of which are associated with allergic disorders in Western lifestyle countries.
In genetically susceptible individuals, the immune system becomes biased and produces IgE antibodies against harmless agents such as pollen, dust mites or animal hair.
The IgE antibodies then work in conjunction with certain cells to get rid of the allergens, a process that gives rise to the symptoms of allergy such as allergic rhinitis (hay fever), atopic dermatitis or asthma.
"Most people with allergies are atopic - meaning they have a genetic tendency to develop allergies. To detect the genetic factors we examined the genomes of more than 10,000 adults and children from the whole of Germany" said Stephan Weidinger.
Though the study is in its early stages, the researchers insist that the new knowledge on the regulation of IgE production does have the potential to guide the development of new drugs.