Allergies are the worst. No one enjoys the yearly itchy eyes, nose and throat, especially knowing that what our bodies are fighting so hard against are innocuous elements of nature. It’s even worse for those suffering from asthma, which may be caused by allergic inflammation, and can have severe medical consequences. Current allergy treatments offer either symptomatic relief, like that provided by anti-histamines, or a non-selective anti-inflammatory treatment, as with corticosteroids. Either way, the underlying cause is not addressed.
Scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have sought to eradicate the allergic response by targeting mast cells, tissue dwelling cells containing prominent cytoplasmic granules. Besides having a pivotal role in allergic reactions, they are also involved in fibrosis, tumors, autoimmune diseases and innate immunity. Mast cells are widely distributed throughout the body, in connective tissues and on mucosal surfaces where they are usually located in close proximity to blood vessels and peripheral nerves. Therefore, they are exposed to environmental stimuli such as microorganisms and allergens with which they can react, both within minutes and/or over a period of hours, and undergo regulated secretion of preformed and newly synthesized mediators. Upon activation, mast cells release a variety of inflammatory mediators including pre-formed granule constituents (e.g. histamine).
Hebrew University’s patent utilizes bi-specific antibodies to inhibit these mast cells and therefore inhibit the allergic-type reactions. Bi-specific antibodies are proteins that have two different binding specificities, usually designed to recognize two different antigens on different cells. Thus, one binding site is specific for an antigen on the target cell (i.e. infected or cancer cell), while the other binding site recognizes specifically an antigen on the immune effector cell. Accordingly, the effector-cell mechanisms will be exerted upon the target cell leading to an appropriate immune response.
In the present invention, the inventors describe the generation of bi-specific antibodies that are able to bind and activate the inhibitory receptor IRp60 in a cell-specific manner, due to its target-cell specific module. The invention specifically focuses on targeting cells involved in the allergic response, like mast cells, eosinophils and basophils (white blood cells that are part of the immune system), therefore providing a new, more efficient, cell specific agent for the treatment of allergy-related illnesses. The binding of the targets results in the induction of an inhibitory pathway through the inhibition of the signaling from the activator.
In recent years, antibody therapy has been used to treat and prevent an array of diseases, including cancer, malaria and asthma. This treatment method targets the body’s natural immunological functions and nips them in the bud, rather than putting energy into the symptoms that are mere embodiments of the underlying problem. This approach makes vastly more sense than the alternative, and hopefully will be a viable option for eradicating allergies altogether.
Some studies suggest that those who suffer from allergies have higher levels of IgE (the antibody that responds to allergens), and that these increased levels may decrease the risk of developing brain cancer. The treatment disclosed in this patent, however, will not decrease levels of IgE, but rather will inhibit the signaling pathway activated by the IgE proteins. Thus, those with higher IgE levels will have the best of both worlds -- no allergies, and decreased risk of developing brain cancer later in life.