A new form of treatment for those with anaphylaxis, severe allergies or autoimmune diseases could soon be on the cards, thanks to a new discovery from Canberra researchers.
Scientists at the Australian National University have uncovered a natural protein in the body’s immune system that can prevent autoimmune diseases or serious allergies.
The protein, called neuritin, has been found to stop the formation of rogue antibodies that normally trigger allergic reactions or autoimmune diseases.
While neuritin had previously been identified as being in the brain and nervous system, it’s the first time the protein had been linked to allergies and the immune system.
The study’s senior author professor Carola Vinuesa said the findings were significant.
“We haven’t really understood all the components that prevent these rogue antibodies from being produced, so this is a major leap forward,” Professor Vinuesa said.
“There hasn’t been a lot known about why people develop serious allergies or immune responses, and while some of it was through some genetic contributors, the key molecular drivers of it were unknown.”
The researchers had spent more than five years to bridge a gap in knowledge around the immune system.
While people without immune system issues naturally develop the protein, the researchers found those more at risk of allergies or anaphylaxis had a notable absence of the neuritin.
Professor Vinuesa said the discovery could offer a more natural form of treatment.
“We have discovered neuritin prevents excessive formation of [antibodies] that is typically associated with some common form of allergy and food intolerances,” she said.
“It’s one of the immune system’s own mechanisms to prevent autoimmunity and allergy and we can go on to harness that for treatment.”
Dr Paula Gonzalez-Figueroa said the protein also suppressed rogue plasma cells which produced harmful antibodies that attack tissue or cause autoimmune disease.
“There are over 80 autoimmune diseases, in many of them we find antibodies that bind to our own tissues and attack us instead of targeting pathogens like viruses and bacteria,” she said.
The research is published in the journal Cell.
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