For as many as 60 million people worldwide, spring's blooming flowers and pleasant breezes are all but ruined by runny noses and watery eyes.
But thanks to a discovery by scientists in Finland, allergies, seasonal and otherwise, may not be long for this world.
Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland say they now have the information necessary to create a universal allergy vaccine that would eliminate unpleasant reactions to everything from cat hair to pollen to peanuts.
Allergic reactions are created when an allergen molecule reacts with an antibody called immunoglobin E (IgE). IgE, in turn, encourages the body’s white blood cells to release histamine—the chemical responsible for unpleasant reactions like sneezing and hives.
While current treatments simply suppress these symptoms, the team in Finland believes they can stop the allergy process altogether.
The scientists, led by Professor Juhu Rouvinen, have discovered a way to modify allergens so that they no longer bind with the allergy-forming antibody IgE. While no longer reacting with IgE, the allergens could still interact with immunoglobin G (IgG), which fights nasty reactions by preventing the release of histamine.
Patients will hypothetically develop a natural immunity against each allergy they have been vaccinated for in the same manner immunity is created against infectious diseases with vaccinations.
Histamines are not the solution because they only inhibit or lesson the allergy so you still have the allergy,” said Rouvinen. “We believe that curing allergies is about changing or modifying the genetic structure of the allergen molecules inside of your body, so we want to eliminate the cause of the allergy, instead of removing symptoms.”
The team, which has formed a biotechnology company called Desentum, hopes to have its product on the market in five to seven years.