Itchy watery eyes, a tickly throat, sniffles and sneezes are the miserable symptoms of an allergy, be it caused by pollen, leaf mould, pet dander, dust mites or something else. But what makes certain environmental proteins allergenic and others innocuous? This has been a longstanding question for allergy researchers, and now, for dust mites at least, they have an answer. Of the thousands of proteins that constitute the common household dust mite (pictured), only about two dozen induce allergic reactions. Comparing the qualities of 19 of these known allergens with 659 of the non-allergenic proteins, scientists found that allergenic ones tended to be both produced in larger amounts and more resistant to degradation. Having determined these general properties, scientists are now in a better position to identify and test other potentially allergenic proteins, including those that may be used in future medicines or consumer products.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.