August 16, 2012, Updated August 15, 2012

Anti-histamines can only do so much when it comes to rashes, respiratory difficulties or swelling. So, an Israeli research team has set out to identify what triggers allergic reactions in the body — with the goal of stopping an allergic reaction before it starts.

Allergies, or hypersensitivities of the immune system, are more common than ever before, reports the Asthma and Allergies Foundation of America.

It is known that cells release dozens of molecules during an allergic reaction, and available medications address only a small subset. Prof. Ronit Sagi-Eisenberg, a cell biologist at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and her fellow researchers say the Rab family, a group of 60 proteins that are known to regulate the distribution of proteins throughout the body, could hold the answer to what triggers allergies.

Along with her Ph.D. student Nurit Pereg-Azouz, Prof. Sagi-Eisenberg found that 30 of these proteins determined how cells react to an allergen, and two of these have been identified for further research as instruments of preventative medication. When the chain of events leading up to an allergic reaction can be understood, drugs can be developed to inhibit the initial reaction, explains Prof. Sagi-Eisenberg.

“We genetically manipulated mast cells so that they contained mutated versions of these proteins, which were already active without an allergen,” explains Prof. Sagi-Eisenberg. If a protein was relevant, it would cause an allergic reaction. “This new methodology allowed us to screen for the functional impact of each member of this family, determining if they either inhibited or activated the allergic process.”

This research has been published in The Journal of Immunology.

Fighting for Israel's truth

We cover what makes life in Israel so special — it's people. A non-profit organization, ISRAEL21c's team of journalists are committed to telling stories that humanize Israelis and show their positive impact on our world. You can bring these stories to life by making a donation of $6/month. 

Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

More on Allergies