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Pre-Empting Allergies

October 28, 2011

A new treatment may block specific allergies without disrupting other immune functions.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Pre-empting allergies.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Allergic reactions can range from irritating to deadly.  Now, University of Notre Dame biomolecular engineer Basar Bilgicer and his colleagues are developing a new way to stop these reactions from happening.  They’re engineering molecules called heterobivalent ligands, or HBLs, that block the antibodies that trigger a specific allergy.

BASAR BILGICER (University of Notre Dame):

If you inhibit only those antibodies, you will not be inhibiting the rest of the antibodies that are effectively defending your body from pathogens.  You will be inhibiting the antibodies that are not supposed to be there.

HIRSHON:

For example, one HBL might block antibodies to peanuts, while another might target antibodies to penicillin.  That’s much safer than suppressing the entire immune system.  Bilgicer says the therapy could be used not only to manage chronic allergies, but to prevent unexpected reactions to emergency medications.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.