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New vaccine (for cats) nixes allergic reactions for humans
You want one. Now you may be able to survive one.
Photo credit: Jie Zhao / Getty contributor
- Cats live in a quarter of Western households.
- Allergies to them are common and can be dangerous.
- A new approach targets the primary trouble-causing allergen.
Many cat lovers struggle with cat allergies that range from sniffles and runny noses to more severe reaction reactions that can send a felinophile racing to the ER.
For some, anti-allergy medications suffice, though they're not without side effects — others just suffer the symptoms in exchange for the privilege of having a cat in their families. (Certainly their cats consider it a privilege.) Some people simply stay away from cats.
This is may all soon change, though. This month, researchers in Zürich published preclinical data in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology that offers a different type of solution: a vaccination. Not for you. For the cat.
Neutralizing Fel d 1
A cat playing in a yard in Beijing, China. Photo credit: Jie Zhao / Corbis via Getty Images
According to the paper, cats live in about 25 percent of households in Western countries, and allergies to them afflict about 10 percent of nearby humans. The most common cat allergen is called "Fel d 1," largely produced by a cat's sebaceous glands and found in feline saliva, anal glands, sebaceous glands, skin, and fur.
Fel-CuMVTT, to be marketed as HypoCat™ vaccine by Swiss company HypoPet, was developed through a collaboration between researchers at the Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Centre, in Riga, and the veterinary school at the University of Zürich — along with scientists at the Functional Genomics Center Zürich.
How the vaccine works
Image source: The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
The vaccine brings together recombinant Fel d 1 with a virus-like particle (or "VLP") derived from the cucumber mosaic virus. "We are very pleased to publish this data which shows our HypoCat™ vaccine is able to produce high levels of antibodies in cats and that these antibodies can bind and neutralize the Fel d 1 allergen produced by the animals," says Dr. Gary Jennings, HypoPet CEO.
Cats treated with the vaccine were found to be less likely to trigger allergic reactions in humans exposed to them. The vaccine is also reported to have been "well tolerated without any overt toxicity" for the feline test subjects. The published data is culled from four separate studies that involved 54 cats.
A double benefit
Image source: Mettus / Shutterstock
The benefits of an effective cat-allergy treatment are two-fold. First off, these allergies are not only annoying — and sometimes much more than that — but a cat allergy in kids living with felines is understood to be a strong factor in the development of childhood asthma. A simple three-dose course of vaccine — as administered in the testing — could alleviate cat-owners' suffering and the risk to young ones.
Households with allergy sufferers, especially children, often find themselves forced to evict a beloved family member, a traumatic experience for all concerned, and a leading cause of cat abandonment. According to HypoCat, U.S. shelters take in 3.4 million cats annually — 1.4 million of these are eventually euthanized.
The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.
- In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
- The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
- The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
A study looks at the ingredients of a good scare.
Catching fear in a bottle<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDYyNzg1Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyOTQwMTcyMn0.WtpJ1E_dhK2o09fBpKARynj4_p5NXeklgsXsbd7xr9w/img.jpg?width=980" id="8ff51" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f10dd9188b173f4a36e85e9325507c6b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: Photo Boards/Unsplash<p>Previous studies have tracked physiological signs of fear arousal, but none have established a one-to-one correlation between that arousal and specific, actual fear events.</p><p>Andersen says that much of the research has been conducted in lab settings with weak fear stimuli, observing subjects as they experience things like scary videos. Scares in these situations tend to be weak and difficult to measure. Even harder to track in these situations is the link between enjoyment and fear. </p>
Eyes everywhere<iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/109695164" width="100%" height="480" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="267ba87cfb8591ed5830499574d2272a"></iframe><p>Andersen and his colleagues conducted their experiments at <a href="https://dystopia.dk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Dystopia</a> Haunted House, a commercial attraction in Vejle, Denmark constructed in an old, run-down factory. The Recreational Fear Lab has a long-standing partnership with the spook shack.</p><p>They outfitted 100 volunteers with heart monitors and sent them on their terrifying way through the 50-room horror mansion. The facility incorporates a number of fright mechanisms including frequent jump scares in which a sudden threat takes a visitor by surprise.</p><p>Researchers surreptitiously observed their participants on closed-circuit video as they made their way through the attraction. They tracked each individual's scares, scoring them for intensity according to their visible reactions. After exiting the attraction, individuals self-reported their experiences in the haunted house.</p><p>Combining these self-reports with observer notes and each participant's heart-rate data gave the researchers subjective, behavioral, and physiological insights into the ways in which fear is experienced, and when it's a good thing or not.</p>
A pair of inverted U-shapes<p>In analyzing their data, the researchers saw two separate inverted u-shape curves. One depicted participants' enjoyment based on their self-reports and observed behavior. A similar u-curve was detected in their heart rates showing that just the right amount of heartbeat acceleration is associated with fun, but too much is too much. It's the terror Goldilocks zone.</p><p>Says Andersen, "If people are not very scared, they do not enjoy the attraction as much, and the same happens if they are too scared. Instead, it seems to be the case that a 'just-right' amount of fear is central for maximizing enjoyment."</p><p>The research suggests that being scared is enjoyable when it represents just a quick minor physiological deviation from one's normal state. When it goes on too long, however, or triggers too severe a physiological change, it becomes disturbing. Game over.</p><p>Andersen notes that this is not dissimilar to the factors known to make interpersonal play enjoyable: just the right amount of uncertainty and surprise. These are, maybe not coincidentally, also the ingredients of a successful joke.</p>
A meteorite that smashed into a frozen lake in Michigan may explain the origins of life on Earth, finds study.
- A new paper reveals a meteorite that crashed in Michigan in 2018 contained organic matter.
- The findings support the panspermia theory and could explain the origins of life on Earth.
- The organic compounds on the meteorite were well-preserved.
Meteor streaks through Michigan sky<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="80b7f30820153b35fc515592d7475f53"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EPu2qnqMYBo?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The meteorite that smashed into Strawberry Lake carried pristine extraterrestrial organic compounds.
Credit: Field Museum