Researchers make headway on understanding body's response to allergies

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The epigenetic regulator protein methyl-CpG-binding domain-2 has been identified as a key controller of dendritic cells during inflammation in response to allergens or parasitic worms, according to results of a study published in Nature Communications.

"Although both worm infections and allergies exert a devastating global impact and lack effective vaccines or refined treatments, basic knowledge of the key cell types and mediators that control immunity and inflammation against either condition is currently limited,” noted Andrew MacDonald, of the Manchester Collaborative Centre for Inflammation Research, in a university press release.

To examine how inflammation is controlled, the investigators analyzed dendritic cells in animal models. The investigators sought to analyze how dendritic cells were activated by parasitic worms, or lung allergens such as dust mites.

The protein methyl-CpG-binding domain-2 (Mbd2) is key to the ability of dendritic cells to switch on inflammation in worm infection and allergic reaction, found the investigators. Mbd2 links DNA methylation to repressive chromatin structure, regulating expression of a wide range of genes that are associated with optimal dendritic cell function. In the absence of Mbd2, dendritic cells display reduced phenotypic activation  and a markedly impaired capacity to initiate immunity against helminthes or allergens.

“It's an important step, as all inflammation is not identical, and scientists try to understand which specific cells and chemicals are more important in the body's response to particular infections,” said MacDonald.

“In the past, medicines have had a broad approach, affecting all aspects of a condition rather than being targeted. In the future it might be possible to create medicines that control the inflammation caused specifically by an allergy or a parasitic worm, rather than by a virus such as a common cold."

Researchers make headway on understanding body’s response to allergies
Researchers make headway on understanding body’s response to allergies

Faculty scientists now have a better understanding of how bodies react to allergies and parasites.

The team, led by Professor Andrew MacDonald, have discovered a new way that immune cells control inflammation during worm infections and in allergic responses to diseases like asthma. The finding is important because inflammation can cause long-term damage and so understanding how it is controlled will help mitigate its effects.

To do this, the team studied dendrites in both animal and lab models. Dendrites are specialised cells of the immune system that play a vital role in the initial response to both allergens and parasites.

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