Scientists have identified 30 proteins in the body that determine how cells react to an allergen and can give a clue to how allergic reactions occur.

Researchers from the Tel Aviv University found that some proteins in Rab family, a group of 60 proteins that are known to regulate the distribution of proteins throughout the body determine how cells react to an allergen.

“Thirty of these proteins determined how cells react to an allergen, and two of these have been identified for further research as instruments of preventative medication,” Ronit Sagi-Eisenberg, a cell biologist from the University said.

This research has been published in The Journal of Immunology.

Allergic reactions can appear as rashes, respiratory difficulties, or swelling, but they’re caused by the same mechanism.

When exposed to an allergen, the body activates the immune system. But mast cells, located throughout the body, sense that the immune system has mistakenly been activated against something that is not bacterial or viral, and they release biologically active molecules to create an inflammatory response.

“We genetically manipulated mast cells so that they contained mutated versions of these proteins, which were already active without an allergen,” Sagi-Eisenberg said.

If a protein was relevant, it would cause an allergic reaction. “This new methodology allowed us to screen for the functional impact of each member of this family, determining if they either inhibited or activated the allergic process,” Sagi-Eisenberg said in a statement.

In the end, the researchers flagged 30 proteins that were relevant to the process of creating an allergic reaction in the body, and have identified two that appear to be the most involved.

Steroids, the only available type of drug that effectively prevents mast cells from secreting biologically active agents, also cause harm to kidneys, bones, and the immune system.

The research hopes to identify proteins that can be targeted by medications without impacting the function of other cells.

(This article was published on August 3, 2012)
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