Research on allergies seeks to help the medical community better understand what happens to the body during the allergic process. Some scientists are seeking better ways to diagnose and treat people with allergic diseases, while others are focusing on ways to influence the cells that participate in the immune system response.
Research on allergies is focused on understanding what happens to the human body during the allergic process -- the sequence of events leading to the response and the factors responsible for allergic diseases.
Scientists involved with allergy research have found that, during the first years of their lives, children raised in a house with two or more dogs or cats may be less likely to develop allergies as compared with children raised without pets. The striking finding here is that high pet exposure early in life appears to protect some children not only from pet allergies, but also from other types of common allergies, such as allergies to house dust mites, ragweed, and grass. This new finding is changing the way scientists think about pet exposure. They must now figure out how pet exposure causes a general shift of the immune system away from an allergic response.
The results of this and a number of other allergy research studies suggest that bacteria carried by pets may be responsible for holding back the immune system's allergic response. These bacteria release molecules called endotoxins. Some researchers think endotoxins are the molecule responsible for shifting the developing immune system away from responding to allergens through a class of lymphocytes (white blood cells) called Th-2 cells (these cells are associated with allergic reactions). Instead, endotoxins may stimulate the immune system to block allergic reactions.
If scientists can find out exactly what it is about pets or the bacteria they carry that prevents the allergic response, they might be able to develop a new treatment.