Cure for cat allergies may be close, with help from some mice

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Monday, March 28, 2005

Although they may be unwilling participants, a group of allergic mice are helping solve a long-time conflict between cats and humans. Scientists from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) reported today in the scientific journal Nature Medicine that they have developed a technique that will one day lead to a cure for cat allergies.

The scientists have bred mice that were genetically engineered to be allergic to cats, and injected these mice with a special protein, derived from both cats and humans. Normally, when humans allergic to cats come in contact with a particular feline protein their body releases a histamine that causes the allergic reaction.

The newly developed protein is a fusion of cat protein with a human protein that normally acts as a brake on the immune system. The cat part stimulates an allergic reaction, but the human part suppresses the response and, in the process, resets the immune system.

After being treated with the protein, it took the mice a month to be cured.

According to experts, nearly one in every seven children are allergic to cats. However the scientists who made this discovery feel that their technique may also be adapted to cure other types of allergies, including food allergies. In some populations allergies affect a large number of people — as many as 30% of all adults in Britain, for example.

The new cure is still in development stages, and will need years of animal and human testing before becoming commercially available.

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