Scientists create a vaccine basis for a common pollen allergy

Scientists create a vaccine basis for a common pollen allergy
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New research could mean scientists are getting closer to a vaccine for mugwort, a common pollen allergy.

A research team at MedUni Vienna has discovered a key mechanism of allergy to pollen, from the common weed mugwort, which could potentially support the development of the world’s first vaccine. A mugwort pollen allergy is a serious problem for individuals in the northern hemisphere from July to September and can aggravate symptoms that lead to asthma.

This discovery could pave the way toward causal therapy and the prevention of mugwort pollen allergy. The researcher’s findings have been recently published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Understanding the history and make-up of mugwort

To initiate their preclinical research, the scientists began analysing the origin of mugwort pollen allergy.

They made their first discovery when they discovered where and how the immunoglobulin E (IgE) type antibodies detect the major mugwort pollen allergen (Art v 1) and trigger the exaggerated immune response. The research team also uncovered distinct protein building blocks of the mugwort pollen allergen, and due to the configuration, they could be blocked by IgG (immunoglobulin G) antibodies.

These findings created the basis for the development of a mugwort pollen allergy vaccine: “Our study shows how fragments of the major mugwort pollen allergen can be used for effective and safe therapy,” said study leader Winfried Pickl.

“Our observations of the mode of action of the vaccine show that one of the ends of the main mugwort pollen allergen provides important docking sites for the pathogenic IgE antibodies of allergic individuals, which can be used for creating a novel vaccine,” Winfried Pickl elaborated.

The research team, led by Maja Zabel and Winfried Pickl, in collaboration with Rudolf Valenta’s research team (all from MedUni Vienna’s Center for Pathophysiology, Infectiology and Immunology), made this pioneering discovery.

10% of the population are affected by mugwort

Mugwort is commonly found in the northern hemisphere and affects approximately 10% of the population. Its pollen can cause uncomfortable symptoms, such as coughing, sneezing, and wheezing; and it can aggravate asthma in sensitised individuals from July to September. Mugwort pollen allergy is treatable, but medication only provides symptomatic relief.

The MedUni Vienna study is an exciting effort that could potentially treat mugwort pollen allergy and alleviate allergic symptoms for the growing affected population. “Next, we will use our research results to produce a synthetic vaccine that can be evaluated in a clinical trial,” explained Rudolf Valenta, outlining the next step on the path to developing an effective vaccine.


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