Researchers at the RIKEN Research Center for Allergy and Immunology (RCAI) have begun bridging research for a vaccine to prevent and treat pollen disease caused by cedar pollen. This is the first pollen disease vaccine developed so far, and consists of fused cryptomeria (cedar) pollen antigens created by genetic engineering.
Pollen disease is a serious and growing problem in Japan, where an estimated 16% of the population is suffering from symptoms of the allergy, many of whom are living in cities. Besides the discomfort experienced by sufferers, the condition causes work absences and other social problems. Some people have even suffered anaphylactic shock from cedar pollen. Until now there has been no treatment, except for allopathy, such as antihistamines to suppress the symptoms of itchy eyes, runny nose and sneezing. The new vaccine offers the hope of a cure, or at least a way to stimulate the immune system to regulate the allergic response caused by pollen disease.
Yasuyuki Ishii and his colleagues at RCAI’s Vaccine Design Research Team synthesized two kinds of principle cryptomeria pollen antigens using genetic engineering techniques. They found from animal trials that the vaccine was effective in both treating the condition and reducing the likelihood of anaphylactic shock, a risk when natural cryptomeria pollen is present.
The bridging study aims to expand research into clinical applications in humans, to determine dose levels and toxicity levels. Human clinical trials are still needed, but a vaccine to stimulate the immune system to fight cedar pollen disease appears to be in sight.
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