This could be the beginning of the end for annoying allergy symptoms
Scientists discover an antibody that blocks the triggering of allergic reactions.
The human immune system is ever-eager to leap into action against foreign irritants. Maybe a little too eager. At least that’s how allergy sufferers feel when trying to quell the runny noses, coughing, and other aggravating allergic reactions that make certain times of year and environments not fun. When we encounter an allergen, our systems produce an antibody, IgE, that turns on the immune cells in charge of those symptoms. Allergy medicines aren’t all that effective at relieving the suffering. But put down that Kleenex: a team of scientists has found an effective way to prevent IgE from binding to those cells and setting them off in the first place.
A collaboration of researchers from the Departments of Engineering and Molecular Biology and Genetics at Aarhus University in Denmark and researchers with Marburg/Giessen University Hospital in Germany has just published a study in which they describe the molecular interactions of a non-human single-body antibody, or “sdab.” It can block IgE’s receptors in immune cells, keeping them from making us miserable. The new research has just been published in Nature Communications. “We can now precisely map how the antibody prevents binding of IgE to its receptors,” co-author Nick Laursen tells AU Engineering. “This allows us to envision completely new strategies for engineering medicine of the future.” The new understanding may help take the field beyond what’s already available in the form of IgE inhibitor omalizumab, marketed as injectable supplemental allergy treatment XOLAIR®.
These sdab proteins are the binding element of heavy chain antibodies in camels and their cousins, some species of cartilaginous fish such as sharks and rays, and in llamas. As the study says, “Their small size and peculiar biochemical features render sdabs highly versatile molecules.”
It’s the llama-derived sdab 026 whose behavior in humans the researchers documented by combining it, ex vivo, with blood cells from people allergic to birch pollen and insect venom. The thinking is that what works with these allergies will also work with others. (No in vivo trials have yet taken place.)
(Photo: Gerwin Sturm)
Of particular note to the scientists is the way in which sdab 026 interrupts the binding of human IgE with two specific immune-cell effectors, CD23 and FceRI. Without that connection, the immune cells never become active. Also interesting: when sdab 026 is introduced, it removes any existing IgE molecules. Subsequently produced IgE has no effect anyway, since immune cells’ effectors no longer respond to it. Another study author, Edzard Spillner, says, “Once the IgE on immune cells can be eliminated, it doesn’t matter that the body produces millions of allergen-specific IgE molecules. When we can remove the trigger, the allergic reaction and symptoms will not occur.” sdab 026 was also incredibly fast at blocking CD23 and FceRI: just 15 minutes.
Begone, itchy pollen eyes (Photo: Parrchristy)
Part of what has the researchers so intrigued and hopeful are the characteristics of sdab 026, which, according to Spillner, is “easily produced in processes using only microorganisms. It is also extremely stable, and this provides new opportunities for how the antibody can be administered to patients.” Its chemical structure may make delivery to patients possible through inhalation or swallowing, an easier option than the injection that XOLAIR requires.
The study notes that sdab 026’s behavior may also suggest the invention of novel, similarly performing molecules with an even lower mass. “Thus, our description of the 026 sdab mode of action is likely to accelerate the development of anti-allergy and asthma drugs in the future,” concludes the study. While more research and safety testing obviously needs to be undertaken, this is a promising start for the sneezers among us.
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Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live.
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