New Antibody-Based Treatment: Revolutionizing Allergy Medications

By Anna Brinks ’21

Histamine molecule (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

According to the CDC, more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies and 25 million have asthma.1,2 A Nature Communications article published on January 2nd, 2018 reported a new antibody treatment that could revolutionize allergy and asthma medication and allow the development of more effective drugs for these prevalent diseases.

Antibodies work within the immune system to recognize and bind to specific molecules (usually invaders or allergens) and tag them for destruction. Researchers at the Aarhus University Departments of Engineering, Molecular Biology, and Genetics, in collaboration with German researchers from Marbug/Giessen, discovered an “anti-IgE” antibody that works by interfering with the IgE human allergy antibody’s ability to bind to cells. Allergens activate the production of high levels of IgE, which subsequently attach to effector cells in the immune system. The effector cells can then trigger the release of histamine (see picture) and the symptoms of an allergic reaction, from hives and itchiness to throat swelling and restricted breathing.3 When IgE binding is prevented by the antibody, allergic symptoms cannot occur.

The research team explored the molecular structure, conformational changes, and interactions of this new antibody.3 Specifically, researchers found that the anti-IgE antibody interferes with the IgE’s ability to bind to the receptor proteins CD23 and FcεRI that are found on effector cells (Jabs et. al., 2018, p.1).

Ex-vivo (outside of the body) experiments were performed on the blood of patients with allergies to birch pollen, honeybee venom, or major yellow jacket venom. The antibody reduced the amount of surface IgE to 30 percent in under 15 minutes, and prolonging incubation reduced the surface IgE by another 10 percent (Jabs et. al., 2018, p.5). Because most allergic reactions are triggered by a similar pathway, this antibody could be applicable to a wide range of allergens.

The antibody studied is relatively small and is restricted to a single domain. It can be produced in microorganisms and administered orally or with an inhalant, making its production and distribution simple and economical.3

The researchers are also hoping that their findings encourage the discovery of additional anti-IgE antibodies with even smaller molecular masses and greater efficacies (Jabs et. al., 2018, p.9). While the antibody still requires extensive clinical testing before it can become commercially available, the anti-IgE antibody shows great promise for improving treatment for the millions of people who suffer from allergies and asthma.

References:

  1. (2017, September 15). Retrieved April 17, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/toolstemplates/entertainmented/tips/Allergies.html
  2. Asthma in the US. (2011, May 03). Retrieved April 17, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/asthma/index.html
  3. Aarhus University. (2018, January 25). Putting an end to allergic reactions: Newly found mechanism could pave the way. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2018 from sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180125101321.htm
  4. Jabs, F., Plum, M., Laursen, N. S., Jensen, R. K., Mølgaard, B., Miehe, M., … Spillner, E. (2018). Trapping IgE in a closed conformation by mimicking CD23 binding prevents and disrupts FcεRI interaction. Nature Communications, 9 (1), 7. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-017-02312-7
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