A gene responsible for producing a protein that blocks allergic reactions has been discovered and studied by a team led by Prof. Israel Pecht of the Institute's Immunology Department.
In an allergic reaction, an allergen such as pollen triggers the immune system to respond abnormally, setting off a series of molecular processes that cause mast cells on the surface of the lungs, nose and other tissues to release chemicals. The result: the familiar bouts of wheezing, sneezing, or other reactions.
Pecht's team discovered that when molecules of a certain protein found on the membranes of these mat cells group together, they can interfere with the biochemical processes that lead to an allergic reaction. The scientists studied the structure of this protein, known as mast-cell-function-associated antigen (MAFA), and the gene responsible for its production, and found that it probably plays a role in intercellular communications.
In the future, it may be possible to prevent allergic reactions by designing medications that mimic the action of MAFA.