Immunotherapy: Tracking allergen-specific B cells in blood and nasal tissue

Published Online: November 10, 2015

Vaccination against allergy, so-called specific immunotherapy, has the potential to cure the disease. This is in contrast to other treatment approaches that combat the symptoms but not the causes of disease. However, the molecular mechanisms that accompany a successful outcome of specific immunotherapy are not fully elucidated, but they frequently involve changes in the set of antibodies that recognize the allergenic substances, the allergens.

In a research article recently published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI), Levin and colleagues carried out a molecular analysis of the populations of antibodies, including disease-eliciting IgE antibodies, produced by B cells in the blood, and nasal tissues of patients, by the combined use of antibody engineering technology and advanced gene sequencing. These antibodies are specifically involved in the induction of the allergic reaction, and thus represent important molecular markers of allergic disease and, potentially, the response to therapy. The different technologies used by the research team describe different aspects of the antibodies, namely their ability to bind allergens and their molecular sequence.

By using this combined research approach on samples derived from allergic subjects undergoing vaccination against their allergy, Levin and colleagues could follow the fate of allergen-specific B cells during the course of such treatment. Their approach demonstrated that cells producing allergen-specific IgE persisted longer than other IgE-producing cells during the course of vaccination. Close relatives of these allergen-specific IgEs were also found in other types of antibodies, antibodies that may be part of the response to vaccination that eventually resolves the disease condition. Importantly the research team also investigated the presence of such allergen-specific antibodies in nasal tissue and found instances of production of such allergen-specific antibodies in tissue associated with allergic inflammation.

The authors conclude that a combined use of antibody engineering technology and deep antibody sequencing technology offers extensive, unique insight into molecular events accompanying allergy vaccination. They hypothesize that implementation of such combined approaches in the study of vaccination efficacy will be able to guide future improvements of strategies for allergy vaccination, to the benefit of allergic subjects and thereby to society as a whole.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) is the official scientific journal of the AAAAI, and is the most-cited journal in the field of allergy and clinical immunology.

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