Researchers at the Imperial College of London have discovered a mechanism that can lead to hay fever and other allergic reactions, thus opening up the possibility for new therapies that would treat allergies by stopping this mechanism.
The study revealed that a gene known as GATA-3 can obstruct the development of regulatory T-cells in the immune system by locking FOXP3 gene, a key to regulatory T cells, and hampers the production of new regulatory T cells.
Scientists believe that if they could develop therapies to stop FOXP3 being blocked, they can make sure that regulatory T cells work freely and normally.
Regulatory T cells are considered important for averting allergic reactions in healthy individuals because they keep the other cells in check, curbing the pro-allergic cells known as Th2 cells and stopping the immune system from needlessly attacking the body.
Some cells like Th2 in the immune system wrongly recognize a particular allergen, such as pollen, as being dangerous and when a person, suffering from these allergies, comes across this allergen again, these cells encourage production of antibodies to attack it that causes an allergic reaction.
The researchers conducted their study by using genetically engineered mouse models to show that mice which were to express the GATA-3 gene in all T cells showed dramatic defects in the production of regulatory T-cells.
Dr Carsten Schmidt-Weber, the principal investigator of the study said that the findings will help to treat not only single allergies but also multiple ones.
"This finding will help us to understand how healthy individuals are able to tolerate allergens and what we need to do to re-induce tolerance in the immune systems of patients with allergies," he said.
"We hope that we will soon be able to help not only patients suffering from single allergies, but also those with multiple ones - the atopic patients," he added.
The researchers believe that the findings would lead to new, more effective treatments for hay fever and other allergies, to be used in combination with existing immunotherapies.
The study has been published in the journal PLoS Biology.