What is anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is a serious and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that usually happens within minutes of exposure to an allergen.
Researchers at Duke University have been investigating the process that causes anaphylaxis to happen so quickly.
The symptoms of anaphylaxis are caused by mast cells. These are immune cells that can be found lining the space surrounding blood cells.
Using mice, they studied the immune cells to see their response to egg allergens.
The scientists wanted to see how the mast cells could detect the allergen in the blood so quickly.
They found that the allergens are being detected by a certain type of dendritic cell. Dendritic cells are important in the immune system as they detect foreign molecules, process them and present the foreign proteins on their surface so that they can be detected by mast cells.
The specific dendritic cells that find the allergens work in a different way, instead of taking the allergen and processing it, they immediately package the allergen protein into small packets called microvesicles and send them in all directions so they are picked up by the mast cells much more quickly.
The scientists were also able to lower the amount of these dendritic cells in the mice, so that they didn’t seem to experience any anaphylactic symptoms.
What this means for the prevention of anaphylaxis is uncertain. The cells may have a role in detecting other foreign molecules such as bacteria and viruses. More information about the role of the cell in detecting other foreign molecules is needed.
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