11 Dec 2019

Allergy research to fathom causes of enigmatic diseases

Dr Marcus Robinson
by Anne Crawford

Australia has among the highest allergy rates in the world – and it’s rising. According to the National Allergy Strategy, life-threatening food allergy rates have doubled in ten years and allergy deaths have increased by 42% over six years.

Immunoglobulin E (IgE), antibody produced by the immune system, is a key driver of allergic responses.

Research by Monash Research Fellow Dr Marcus Robinson, funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), will drill deep to identify the sources of IgE in chronic allergic diseases. “We will combine disease-relevant allergy models and new reporter mice to work out when IgE-producing cells develop, how they develop, and how their lifespan affects the persistence of allergic responses,” Dr Robinson said.

“We expect to identify fundamental mechanisms underlying IgE production against allergens in this study," he said.

Dr Robinson, part of Professor David Tarlinton's research group in the Department of Immunology and Pathology, was awarded $731,920 under the NHMRC Ideas Grant scheme for work to be carried out over three years.

“Allergies are one of the more enigmatic diseases we face in the modern world. Lots of people have them, but it’s difficult to work out how to cure allergies. Allergies can often be treated in the short-term with things like anti-histamines and asthma relief inhalers, but those treatments don’t stop the immune programming behind the allergy. It will be a good step forward when we begin to treat the cause rather than the symptoms.”

Current research is pointing to some causes, and in many cases they converge on IgE.
IgE recognises specific allergens, for example peanuts or milk proteins, and triggers the allergic symptoms when we eat or inhale an allergen, he said.

“We think clarifying the nature of IgE production will allow us to improve allergen immunotherapies to one day be curative.” 

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