Sunday, March 27, 2005

Medical Breakthrough: Mice Made Allergic To Cats

Mary is allergic to cats. Or, more precisely, the one cat we live with.

Scientists at UCLA are working towards a solution:
The treatment comprises a molecule that loosely links a feline and a human protein together. The feline end is a protein called Fel d1 found in cat dander and saliva that causes so much misery in allergy sufferers. On the other end sits a piece of human antibody that docks to a cell receptor that can be recruited to stop allergic reactions.

The investigators named the molecule GFD, or Gamma Feline Domesticus, for its human and feline parts, according to lead scientist Andrew Saxon of UCLA. The cat allergen end of GFD binds to antibodies on the surface of the cell. The human end of GFD links to a different cell surface protein that interrupts the allergic response.

Saxon's team first tested GFD in blood donated by people allergic to cats. Scientists cultured blood cells with either GFD or with a purified human antibody as a control. Then they added the cat protein that triggers allergic reactions to all the blood cell cultures.

"We measured more than 90 percent less histamine in the cultures with GFD," they wrote in the paper, "those results suggested that GFD successfully prevented the immune cells from reacting to cat allergen. The next step was to test GFD in mice that we had made allergic to the allergenic protein found in cat saliva and dander.

I've always assumed that mice, in the big scheme of things, were already allergic to cats -- in the same way that I'm allergic to mad dogs. But what a boon for mice. Why depend on scent and sound to spot cats when watery eyes can do the job better?