When I was younger, my brother’s dog allergy almost prevented me from getting the two dogs I now love. This condition is not uncommon in the United States, where around 30% of the population is allergic to cats and dogs. Because these types of allergies are so prevalent, many researchers have worked to produce a dog-allergy vaccine. Luckily, a research team in Japan recently made significant progress towards making this a possibility!
There are seven dog allergens, but one is responsible for 50 to 75% of allergic reactions. By focusing on this particular allergen, Canis familiaris 1 or Can f 1, which is found in dogs’ tongue tissue, salivary glands, and their skin, the team has been able to locate the epitope for dog allergies. Epitopes are strings of amino acids that can trigger an allergic reaction. They bind to a specific antigen receptor on B cells and activate their production of antibodies. These antibodies recognize the epitope on a region of the antigen and bind to it to remove it from the body, subsequently making them part of the protein that our bodies perceive as a threat.
Using X-ray crystallography, the team successfully determined the structure of this protein, which allowed them to notice that while the folding pattern of the allergen was very similar to other Can f allergens, the locations of surface electrical charges were different. This suggests that there should be good candidates for the region of the protein that produces the allergic reaction to dogs in those locations.
Once these epitopes have been found and isolated, they can be targeted by a vaccine that lessens the immune response they trigger. While further research is needed to establish the first dog-allergy vaccine, this method of developing vaccines is novel. If the team is able to successfully locate the portion of the protein, the process is hoped to produce other vaccines in the future. Hopefully, all pet allergies can be treated in the future to allow more people to adopt pets without the fear of an allergic reaction!
Britannica. www.britannica.com/science/epitope. Accessed 6 Feb. 2022.
Nield, David. “We May Finally Have the Basis of a Dog Allergy Vaccine.” Science Alert, 20 Dec. 2021, www.sciencealert.com/we-may-have-the-start-of-what-could-be-a-vaccine-against-dog-allergies. Accessed 6 Feb. 2022.
“Researchers Lay Groundwork for Potential Dog-allergy Vaccine.” Science Daily, 22 Dec. 2021, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/12/211222153207.htm. Accessed 6 Feb. 2022.
“7 Surprising Facts about Pet Allergies.” Filtrete, www.filtrete.com/3M/en_US/filtrete/home-tips/full-story/~/7-suprising-facts-about-pet-allergies/?storyid=974e37a7-71ff-464c-969c-9539d365ce49.