Every Spring, you can count on a handful of posts here at ERV on allergies. Ive got em. I hate em.
But I recognize that in many ways, Im ‘lucky’ as far as allergies go. I only have to deal with them for a few months of the year, I can move somewhere else and not have to worry about them at all anymore, and even though my symptoms are annoying, they certainly arent life threatening.
Not everyone with allergies is this lucky.
Some people are allergic to ‘indoor’ things that are around year-round. And some of the ‘indoor’ stuff isnt as simple as not owning a cat– some people are allergic to dust mites– little creatures that exist everywhere humans exist. You can reduce their numbers, but you physically cannot get away from them. And some people dont just get itchy eyes and a runny nose when confronted with dust mites– they can actually have really severe allergic reactions that lead to life-threatening asthma attacks because of the inflammation in their lungs.
Thanks to genetically modified rice and vaccination, this life-threatening allergy could cease to exist–
Prevention of allergic asthma by vaccination with transgenic rice seed expressing mite allergen: induction of allergen-specific oral tolerance without bystander suppression
Allergies are an inappropriate immune response. Your immune system ‘sees’ something like tree pollen or cat dander, and it FREAKS OUT. It thinks your body is under attack… but really everything would be just fine if your immune system just ignored it. In particular, your immune system thinks it needs to make an antibody variant IgE. IgE is a totally useful antibody when your dealing with intestinal worms and stuff, but when its responding to allergies, its why my eyes itch like hell during allergy season and its responsible for all kinds of inflammatory responses that result in allergy symptoms, and asthma attacks when it comes to people with severe allergies.
You cant make this response go away after it develops.
Get your immune system to make IgG instead of IgE. IgG is pretty much The Workhorse antibody. But since there really arent teeny tiny cats/trees/dust mites infecting you, the anti-cat dander/tree pollen/dust mite IgG will just float around, not doing anything, whereas the IgE antibodies made a goddamn mess.
One way to do this already is via allergy shots. Ive thought about getting them myself, but they are a huge pain in the butt. You have to miss school/work to get into the physicians office to get the shots all the damn time, you have to do that for a very long time, huge pain.
What if you could get a prescription for a bag of rice? Eat a bowl of it once a week for a year or twice a week for a year or once a month or whatever they figure out is an appropriate dose– and no more life threatening allergies?
This group of scientists made genetically modified rice that expressed a dust mite protein, DerP1 (hehehe, ‘derpy one’). They fed it to mice, and the mice had lower anti-DerP1 IgE and IgG antibodies (hmm, it didnt work via the mechanism I described above) compared to the ‘allergic’ mice that didnt get the GMO rice. They had fewer inflammatory immune cells (eosinophils, neutrophils, and mononuclear cells) in their lung fluid, and fewer inflammatory immune cells in their lungs themselves, and had similar responses to a bronchial hyperresponsiveness test as the ‘non-allergic’ mice (while the unvaccinated ‘allergic’ mice had asthma attacks).
Of course this is ‘only in mice’, but this technology– genetically modified rice as a vaccine– might one day make this life-threatening disease a story for textbooks, instead of a real problem for millions of people.