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From Food to Pollen – Animal Models Necessary for Allergy Studies

Animal models, a vital part of pre-clinical research, can be used for studying the immune system’s reaction to a variety of allergies. The type of allergies studied include agents found in food, seasonal allergens and pollen that cause conjunctivitis, and viral infections that lead to allergic sensitization as well as asthma.

One study stemming from the Medical University of Vienna incorporated animal models into researching the allergenic possibility of specific food proteins. A mouse model was used to illustrate the sensitization route in human patients.

Acid-suppressing medication was analyzed and pH levels were measured. Dose-dependency was also considered, as the mice were fed different levels of ovalbumin. A second experiment included different routes of exposure for the mouse models.

The results show that two injections of a proton pump inhibitor brought the gastric pH levels up from 2.97 to 5.30. Protein feeding changed the levels of antibodies marginally while oral immunizations led to anaphylactic reactions within the mice.

Additionally, it was solely low-dose ovalbumin feedings along with anti-acid medication that caused an allergic reaction in the mice tested. This allowed the researchers to develop an adequate food allergy model using dose-dependency analysis and immunization protocols.

Along with food allergies, scientists have studied allergic conjunctivitis in animal models. One study from the Humboldt-University in Berlin, Germany focused on the link between allergic eye conditions to diseases like allergic rhinitis, atopic dermatitis and allergic asthma. While the inflammatory symptoms of ocular allergies affect countless patients, there has not been an excess of research behind the molecular basis of these conditions.

In order to develop more treatments and gain greater insight into the immunological response, more animal models of ocular allergies have been set up in the last few years. Seasonal and perennial allergic conjunctivitis were followed to find out their immunological components. Animal models have been used in the past to study various allergens like ragweed, pollen, and agents on cat fur. Along with rats and mice, guinea pig models have also been included in analyzing the pharmacological parts of allergic conjunctivitis.

Food-based and ocular allergies are not the only conditions animal models are used for with regard to over-sensitization. Respiratory viral infections linked to allergic reactions and asthma have also been studied in mouse models.

A study from the Children’s Hospital in Bochum, Germany and the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver Colorado explains that respiratory viruses can aggravate asthma and sensitization to aeroallergens. The animal models used in the study support this hypothesis.

The immune system reacts to respiratory viruses by bringing dendritic cells along with T-cells to the respiratory epithelium. Additionally, eosinophils trigger airway hyperresponsiveness, the paper explains. In the study, several animal models were used to study several factors including; (1) how viral infections increase allergic sensitization, (2) increased airway inflammation and responsiveness due to a viral infection, and (3) a rise of inflammation in established respiratory allergies.

These studies show that animal models are a necessity for the investigation of allergic reactions. Whether it be food allergies, cat fur, or pollen, animal research is imperative for discovering the causes of certain immune responses and the development of medications and treatments for these conditions.

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Categories: Allergy and auto-immunity

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