Dog allergies are becoming increasingly common; some estimates suggest that 10-20% of the world’s population has some kind of allergy to dogs, a number that continues to rise. These allergies are caused by proteins (or allergens) present in animal cells, skin, or saliva, which cause a strong immune system reaction and trigger hay fever-like symptoms or even difficulty breathing.
Seven dog allergens have been identified by researchers: Canis familiaris 1 to 7 (abbreviated as Can f 1-7). However, of all known allergens, it’s Can f 1 that causes the majority of allergies in humans, making it an important research target.
However, despite knowing that Can f 1 is the main allergen in dog allergies, there is still much that is unknown about it and how it causes allergic reactions; specifically, researchers have yet to identify its epitopes, or the pieces of an antigen that bind to particular antibodies in the immune system and trigger an immune response. One particular antibody, IgE, appears to play a vital role in shaping allergic responses.
A recent study published in the FEBS Journal describes groundbreaking work that describes the Can f 1 allergen, which may build the framework for a potential vaccine for dog allergies in the future.
In the study, researchers used x-ray crystallography to map the structure of the Can f 1 protein, a first. They found that the Can f 1 protein seemed to be suitable for the IgE epitope, suggesting a potential, tangible target for a future vaccine.
Researchers hope this information will shed more light on how the protein functions as an allergen and, in particular, provide more information about the protein’s epitopes. With this information, researchers could develop a vaccine that recognizes epitopes and shapes immune response. Researchers also hope that their approach could also pave the way for vaccine strategies to target other allergies.