Scientists Discover Allergy “Switch”

Word on Health was interested to learn that researchers from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center have found a molecule that specifically directs immune cells to develop the capability to produce allergic diseases such as asthma, eczema, and food allergy.  The study identifies thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) as a switch that causes the development of the allergic response.

The study team, led by Yong-Jun Liu, M.D., Ph.D., and supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, suggests that TSLP may be a potential therapeutic target to treat and prevent allergic diseases.

While this discovery is promising, leading allergy doctors have advised that it’s too early for allergy sufferers worldwide to start celebrating. “This is the latest in a long list of potential underlying causes for why some patients develop a harmful immunologic reaction to common, naturally occurring substances which are benign to the majority of people” cautioned Allan Luskin, MD of Madison, WI. “There have been many previous ‘pretenders’ which were thought to be responsible for this adverse immunologic response.  Much more data in needed before we can start talking about developing a therapeutic intervention”.

Dr. Michael Kaliner, Medical Director of the Institute for Asthma and Allergy, former head of Allergic Diseases at NIH and past president of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, and the World Allergy Organization, agrees.  He told Word on Health “Scientists keep searching for what makes an allergic patient exposed to an otherwise harmless protein, make antibodies, when non-allergic patients make no response whatsoever.  It is the ability to see and recognize an allergen in these ordinary substances that separates the allergic from the non-allergic population.”  Dr. Kaliner added, “If this factor is ultimately determined to be the factor instead of one of many, then it will be a viable target for therapeutic intervention”.

Meanwhile, only time will tell if TSLP is just another flash in the pan.