Green our vaccines! Part IV

Every Spring, you can count on a handful of posts here at ERV on allergies. Ive got em. I hate em.

But I recognize that in many ways, Im 'lucky' as far as allergies go. I only have to deal with them for a few months of the year, I can move somewhere else and not have to worry about them at all anymore, and even though my symptoms are annoying, they certainly arent life threatening.

Not everyone with allergies is this lucky.

Some people are allergic to 'indoor' things that are around year-round. And some of the 'indoor' stuff isnt as simple as not owning a cat-- some people are allergic to dust mites-- little creatures that exist everywhere humans exist. You can reduce their numbers, but you physically cannot get away from them. And some people dont just get itchy eyes and a runny nose when confronted with dust mites-- they can actually have really severe allergic reactions that lead to life-threatening asthma attacks because of the inflammation in their lungs.

Thanks to genetically modified rice and vaccination, this life-threatening allergy could cease to exist--

Prevention of allergic asthma by vaccination with transgenic rice seed expressing mite allergen: induction of allergen-specific oral tolerance without bystander suppression

Allergies are an inappropriate immune response. Your immune system 'sees' something like tree pollen or cat dander, and it FREAKS OUT. It thinks your body is under attack... but really everything would be just fine if your immune system just ignored it. In particular, your immune system thinks it needs to make an antibody variant IgE. IgE is a totally useful antibody when your dealing with intestinal worms and stuff, but when its responding to allergies, its why my eyes itch like hell during allergy season and its responsible for all kinds of inflammatory responses that result in allergy symptoms, and asthma attacks when it comes to people with severe allergies.

You cant make this response go away after it develops.

But you can distract it.

Get your immune system to make IgG instead of IgE. IgG is pretty much The Workhorse antibody. But since there really arent teeny tiny cats/trees/dust mites infecting you, the anti-cat dander/tree pollen/dust mite IgG will just float around, not doing anything, whereas the IgE antibodies made a goddamn mess.

One way to do this already is via allergy shots. Ive thought about getting them myself, but they are a huge pain in the butt. You have to miss school/work to get into the physicians office to get the shots all the damn time, you have to do that for a very long time, huge pain.

What if you could get a prescription for a bag of rice? Eat a bowl of it once a week for a year or twice a week for a year or once a month or whatever they figure out is an appropriate dose-- and no more life threatening allergies?

This group of scientists made genetically modified rice that expressed a dust mite protein, DerP1 (hehehe, 'derpy one'). They fed it to mice, and the mice had lower anti-DerP1 IgE and IgG antibodies (hmm, it didnt work via the mechanism I described above) compared to the 'allergic' mice that didnt get the GMO rice. They had fewer inflammatory immune cells (eosinophils, neutrophils, and mononuclear cells) in their lung fluid, and fewer inflammatory immune cells in their lungs themselves, and had similar responses to a bronchial hyperresponsiveness test as the 'non-allergic' mice (while the unvaccinated 'allergic' mice had asthma attacks).

Of course this is 'only in mice', but this technology-- genetically modified rice as a vaccine-- might one day make this life-threatening disease a story for textbooks, instead of a real problem for millions of people.

More like this

Great research, so I'm afraid it was done using GM technology and animal research. With the current influx of loons on SB, you might get your most active thread ever.

OMG! GMO rice is going to give our kids AUTISM!


Is there any chance that this method could be used to treat other environmental allergies? Could you develop a rice that expresses multiple allergens (dust mites, cat dander, various common pollens, peanuts, etc) and thus treat multiple allergies simultaneously? Should there be any harm in using this rice on people who don't suffer life-threatening dust mite allergies (e.g., is there a reason to not feed the entire family dust-mite rice (er, other than that name) when only one person is allergic)?

By Blaise Pascal (not verified) on 31 Mar 2011 #permalink

I suspect the argument against feeding the whole family the GMO rice is that it would probably be prohibitively expensive (if it wasn't going to do any harm to non-allergic people. About that, I have no idea.)

But man would this ever be great if they could do it for animal dander *Imagines a wonderful future without allergies to cats, dogs and horses*

I started getting allergy shots during grad school (conveniently, I was allergic to mold and also work on mold...)and for me it is way easier than it would be at a different point in my life because I can just stop by the student health center on campus and get a shot once a week. At any other point I would have to drive to the doctors office or wherever and it would be a pain in the ass and I probably wouldn't do it. I know that it doesn't work the same for everyone but mine have been life changing!

Blaise, I think someone has already done something similar. They at least used multiple antigens of a certain pollen in one rice strain:

So instead of using two parts of one kind of pollen, I don't know why you can't use two different pollens or pollen and mites etc. Maybe it'll be easiest to just mix different strains of rice into one bag.

Ursula, find a friendly neighbour who will let you lick their dog?

@Blaise and erkLR - making transgenic crops is much easier than it used to be, but it's not trivial, and the back-crosses required to make double and triple mutants is a pain. I imagine making 2 mutants and mixing them in the bag would be far easier.

I love the idea of shelf-stable vaccines. I hope these developments (and the cholera one with that stupid name) succeed.

I'm allergic to peanuts, though, and I'd rather they developed a GMO peanut that knocked out the allergen. Of course, I'd have to sue organic providers if their pollen contaminated the non-allergenic peanuts....

This is not about induction of IgG instead of IgE, most likely it is about inducing oral tolerance, a mechanism that is not entirely understood.

As a side note, one of the more interesting findings on this phenomenon:

By MolBioMonk (not verified) on 31 Mar 2011 #permalink

I recently read an article covering a study in humans where a monoclonal antibody against IgE was administered in order to up the amount of allergenic antigen a patient could receive in desensitizing protocols. This was done against mild to medium milk allergies for the study (for obvious reasons severe peanut allergies would be a bad place to start) but if this is reproduced, it could be used as a nifty combination strategery (to quote Bush).

By Poodle Stomper (not verified) on 02 Apr 2011 #permalink

If your allergy was not recognised and treated the same way as ME CFS was treated by the psychiatry brigade here in the UK they would say that the fear of the dog induced a psychological reaction. They would say that you were acting out illness beliefs by reacting to the dog and the symptoms were physical reactions or manifestation induced by hysteria and there was no evidence that particles of pollen cat or dog could cause an allergy. I am pointing this out as an example of how annoying being labelled psychological can be. Thankfully allergies are not treated in the same way that ME CFS patients have come to expect. It might also be due to the fact that your immune system no longer has bacteria or infections to fight of so is over reacting to dust or pollen. I am unsure if this is right?

By t gardener (not verified) on 03 Apr 2011 #permalink

[de-lurk]ERV, since transgenic rice is still a ways off, and allergy shots are inconvenient, have you consider sublingual immunotherapy (allergy drops)? It's the same concept of the shots, but in drop-form. The biggest advantage is you can do them at home. The biggest disadvantage is their use is considered off-label (in the US), so insurance doesn't cover them. They're not cheap, but it may be worth it to save the time and hassle that the shots would entail. Just a thought. If not, there's always the anti-histamines.[re-lurk]


I'm not going to get into what CFS is or anything, but if it is a psychiatric disorder, why is that so bad? Psychiatric disorders are real diseases, with biological bases. That's the problem with stigmatizing mental illness, some people prefer to suffer than acknowledge the disorder (this is common with depression). If, very hypothetically, antidepressantss were shown to reduce symptoms in 80% of those with CFS, would you take it?

From what I read from your comment, you don't really know anything about it's cause. (To be honest I don't know much about it, either.) But why are you so against it being psychiatric?

This argument has come up in the past .Not wanting to recognise ME CFS as some kind of mental disorder is seen as some kind of prejudice against Mental illness in general. But a mental disorder argument has been used to stop research into ME CFS. It is easy to be indifferent when you are happy and well are not getting pushed to school are not being ridiculed in the media are not being told to exercise when exercise caused you to loose your job...It is easy not to care what something is if you do not have it .Stomach ulcers demonstrate how damaging this can be .People were told they had stress and were desperate for some kind of treatment had unnecessary operations removing parts of there intestines bowls committed suicide or had pain for life when the real cause was Helicobacter Pylori and not the term stress which everyone had accepted. people did not accept Multiple sclerosis was a mental disorder should ME CFS sufferers be expected to do the same .Is medicine there for psychiatrists and experts as some kind of support group for themselves because they must not be challenged upset or questioned .spreading a potential virus through the blood supply or having unprotected sex just because they were told it is psychological happened as in HIV l? As epidemic hysteria .The Group-Fantasy Origins of AIDS, which was published by the Journal of PSYCHOHISTORY of 1984 confirms were the hysterical mad HIV people who were dieing wrong to challenge the government to have there disease seen as real and demand more research. It all comes down to weather you believe those wonderful mix of medical psychiatry or the ME CFS patients .the psychiatrists track record in being proved wrong in the past especially over HIV and MS stomach ulcers and so much more should make you question there science. As an example of unprofessionalism coming from the UK were it is seen as real but mainly psychological disease and there is a desire to blame patients for being uncooperative as in HIV. A retro virologist from the Imperial College, London who started up the contamination theory about XMRV which has been used so much in the media said about ME CFS Nothing on Godâs Earth could persuade me to do more research on CFS. She then as a UK citizen tried to get appointed to membership on the Center for Scientific Review Special Emphasis Panel who who decide funding into research in America but was stopped by ME CFS sufferers in the USA who challenged her commitment in really wanting to help or progress understanding of this disease or XMRV.

By t gardener (not verified) on 06 Apr 2011 #permalink

As you may notice I believe ME CFS to be A VIRUS and challenging the professionals to be a good idea though you may disagree .It is ok to make up your own mind and I donât have any prejudice against mental illness particularly when the mentally ill or those suffering from being accused of having it have been treated so badly in the past.

By t gardener (not verified) on 06 Apr 2011 #permalink

One way to do this already is via allergy shots. Ive thought about getting them myself, but they are a huge pain in the butt. You have to miss school/work to get into the physicians office to get the shots all the damn time, you have to do that for a very long time, huge pain.

Abby, just keep the stuff in the fridge and give yourself the shots at home, like diabetics do with insulin. It's easy, and way, way less of a pain in the butt than having to go to the "doctor"'s office all the time for a little shot. It's really no big deal, no sweat, takes about a minute, and once you get the hang of it---which you very quickly will---it doesn't hurt much at all.

I'd rather give myself an allergy shot than brush my teeth. It's less hassle. (Other people seem prefer that I brush my teeth, though. Go figure.)

My sister and I had nasty allergies as kids, which fortunately we both mostly outgrew, but for years I'd give myself and her our shots, and it was just not a problem.

If you think the shots will help you, get the shots. Not doing it is like letting your teeth go unbrushed because you can't make time to go to the dentist for a brushing.