Puppy love needn't cause pain as scientists are working on 'dog allergy vaccine'

·2-min read

Dogs are known as man's best friends - but some people miss out on puppy love as they are allergic to our most loyal companions.

Help may be at hand, however, as for the first time, researchers have identified candidates for parts of the molecules that make up dog allergens that could provide a "dog allergy vaccine".

Over the years, scientists have been able to identify seven different dog allergens, but just one, Can f 1, is responsible for the majority (50-75 per cent) of reactions in people allergic to dogs. It is found in dogs' tongue tissue, salivary glands, and skin.

Researchers have yet to specifically identify Can f 1's IgE epitopes - those specific parts of the antigens that stimulate an immune response. But they are now pushing to develop epitope-focused vaccines as they have found good candidates for the epitope.

"We want to be able to present small doses of these epitopes to the immune system to train it to deal with them, similar to the principle behind any vaccine," said Takashi Inui, a specialist in allergy research, professor at Osaka Prefecture University and a lead author of the study. "But we can't do this without first identifying the Can f 1's IgE epitope."

The researchers used X-ray crystallography to determine the structure of the Can f 1 protein as a whole - the first time this had ever been done. Their findings suggest the development of a hypoallergenic vaccine against Can f 1 - a dog allergy vaccine - is within our grasp, as they found a series of 'residues' that are good candidates for the IgE epitope.

The production of a 'hypoallergenic vaccine' by use of such epitopes would be a world-first relating to dog allergies and also rare with respect to any allergic reaction. If the researchers' work is indeed used to develop a dog allergy vaccine, similar treatments could soon be created to avoid other allergies.

Their findings were published in the Federation of European Biochemical Societies.

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