Single Genetic Glitch May Explain Most Allergies and Asthma

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Allergies are certainly the result of both genetic and environmental factors, but there is fresh evidence to suggest that at least one major genetic aberration could be behind everything from hay fever to food allergies to asthma.

Allergies — to dust, pet hair or peanuts — are essentially the product of misdirected immune systems, which start to see innocuous objects as potential threats and launch an intensive assault that can translate into sneezing, wheezing, and even potentially fatal seizures. For decades now, rates of allergies and other immune-related diseases such as asthma and eczema have been rising in the U.S., and the rapid increase suggests that it’s more than just genes, or just changes in lifestyle that made us too clean that are at work.

Now researchers studying the genetics behind the rare tissue disorders Marfan and Loeys-Dietz syndromes have discovered that there may be a common genetic driver behind almost all allergic diseases. Reporting in the journal Science Translational Medicine, scientists from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and the Johns Hopkins Institute of Genetic Medicine say that they were surprised to find that the same mutation they found in the Marfan and Loeys-Dietz patients may also trigger the immune changes responsible for allergies; most of the patients with the two rare disorders also have higher than normal rates of allergies.

(MORE: Location, Location: Being Born in the U.S. Puts Kids at Higher Risk of Allergies)

The culprit, they say, is abnormal signaling by a protein called transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta). TGF-beta is responsible for regulating cell growth and communication, and in the Marfan and Loeys-Dietz patients, mutations in the TGF-beta gene, combined with other genetic aberrations, contribute to dangerous thinning of the blood vessels.

People with seasonal or food allergies are not more likely to develop the conditions, but improper functioning of this protein can also trigger other effects — most notably the cascade of events that are familiar to anyone who suffers from allergies — the release of histamines that trigger mucous and liquid production that can cause swelling and itching of the eyes and nose; the flood of inflammatory cells to the lungs that can cause shortness of breath; the dilation of blood vessels that can lead to a dangerous drop in blood pressure and even shock.

“Disruption in TGF-beta signaling does not simply nudge immune cells to misbehave but appears to singlehandedly unlock the very chain reaction that eventually leads to allergic disease,” said the study’s senior author Dr. Harry Dietz, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in a statement.

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The researchers came to their conclusion after studying 58 kids with Loeys-Dietz syndrome, all of whom had a history of allergies or related immune diseases, and high levels of T-cells, the cells that can both recognize and attack foreign agents that threaten the body.

While TGF-beta normally regulates T cell function, in the patients in the study, the T-cells were over-active, zealously attacking not just dangerous pathogens but harmless food proteins too. This cycle could explain how most allergies are triggered, the researchers say.

The results suggest that TGF-beta could be a useful target for new allergy treatments. “One of the hurdles in trying to develop new treatments for allergies is pinpointing the key signaling pathways we need to target,” Dr. Pamela Frischmeyer-Guerrerio, an immunologist at Hopkins and one of the study’s co-authors, said to HealthDay. “TGF-beta really seems to be central to one of the key pathways that underlie the development of all forms of allergic disease.” There is already a drug available that inhibits TGF-beta — a blood pressure medication called losartan (Cozaar) — that the study researchers are testing to see if it can relieve allergy symptoms in animals.

MORE: Why We’re Going Nuts Over Nut Allergies

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paulgeorges
paulgeorges

Things we eat are very often very different than they used to be :

WHAT’S THE PROBLEM WITH GLUTEN?March 21, 2010By Immune Matrix LLC (Copyright)



Our distant ancestors ate almost no gluten grains.  Grains started to be cultivated only ten thousand years ago, and even then, only in some parts of the world.  The American continent, for example, had no gluten grains until they were introduced a few hundred years ago. Of all the grains, wheat is the number one culprit.  Modern wheat is also very different from the wheat that grew in the Bronze Age and before because the United States genetically modified the grain to contain a higher percent of the wheat protein under the misguided premise that it would “feed the masses better” and be more nutritional. What they did not realize was the digestion of this protein was too broad a step for our genetics to go from hunter-gatherer and expect the body to genetically adapt to a higher concentration of this protein in the grain.

Many of us have simply not yet adapted to tolerate grain, unlike ruminant animals that live off grasses and grains. A substance called gluten constitutes 78 percent of the total protein in the modern wheat. Countries that adopted the use of this genetically modified wheat for a higher gluten content show a direct correlation to inflammatory and auto-immune diseases! This may explain why grain sensitivities are so widespread. 

There is now plenty of research to show that it is the specific subset of gluten, gliadin, that is an intestinal irritant and causes the inflammation to multiple tissue systems.  The body reacts to it as if it there was an invader present.  Bakers love the gluten as it helps to give bread its silky light texture. So the higher the gluten content, the lighter the loaf, but the harder it is on our intestines!                                                                    

Tragically, gliadin frequently causes the immune system to react as if it is not a component of nourishing food, but an invading bug or microbe or, worse, as though it is indistinguishable from normal organ tissues found in our bodies.  The effects of gluten on the immune system, and brain, along with profound nutritional deficiencies that so often accompany gluten sensitivity, contribute to many modern inflammatory diseases that did not exist before the widespread use of gluten products.    

In those people who are genetically predisposed to gluten sensitivity, eating these grains has serious detrimental effects on the body’s immune system.  Gluten grains often trigger autoimmune disease, such as insulin dependent diabetes, hypothyroidism, where the immune system, instead of protecting the body, aggressively turns against it, causing these chronic, debilitating inflammatory diseases. If not a direct cause, gluten/gliadin’s presence in the body aggravates these conditions significantly. Other inflammatory diseases having potential links to gluten/gliadin proteins are Chron’s disease, Celiac sprue, irritable bowel, arthritis, chronic fatigue, and fibromyalgia.

Gluten grains and dairy products contain morphine-like substances that affect behavior, cause learning difficulties, contribute to aggravations in ADD/ADHC, OCD behavior in those sensitive individuals, as well as migraines, headaches, eczema, increased food cravings especially for carbohydrates and more gluten! These grains are known to affect emotion and induce mood changes and swings in those neurologically sensitive. These food-derived “drugs” even alter how our immune system works, how our brain functions, altering our neurotransmitter synthesis and function and, as a consequence, dramatically increase our risk of developing many different kinds of cancer.

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease, sometimes referred to as celiac sprue, is a genetically influenced condition that results from eating gluten.  More specifically, celiac disease is an ailment whereby the inside lining of the small intestine, called the intestinal mucosa, is chronically damaged by gluten proteins and their interaction with the immune system.


 today’s celiac displays quite different symptoms, such as psychological depression, intestinal cancer, insulin-dependent diabetes, osteoporosis, short stature, canker sores, and /or chronic liver disease of unknown cause, to name just a few.  In fact, well over 150 medical conditions have now been reported as overrepresented among gluten-sensitive individuals.


Whatever the health concerns, whether for a loved one or yourself, the answer is often found in one’s diet and metabolism (and how the body reacts to food) and one’s immune system’s function. The more inflamed a person is, meaning the more symptoms a person may have such as: sugar cravings, bloating, gas, diarrhea, irritable bowel, mood swings, irritability, skin eruptions, eczema, chronic fatigue, aches and pains, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, diabetes, headache, migraine, seasonal allergies, food allergies, food sensitivities, PMS, environmental sensitivities, ADD, ADHD, OCD, Asperger’s syndrome, autism, chronic ear infections, hives, chronic sinusitis, autism, hypothyroidism, lyme disease, the more likely a person is to develop a sensitivity to some degree to gluten and gliadin proteins. And these proteins will add fuel to the fire of inflammation.

One does not need to be diagnosed with Celiac sprue to benefit from avoidance of gluten products. It also takes a minimum of three weeks to eliminate the metabolic byproducts of gluten from the system and that is for a non-immunologically inflamed individual! Therefore, if you stop gluten from your diet you need to do it for at least a month to 6 weeks to determine the relative benefit to your system or longer.

A majority of celiacs have silent or nonspecific, non-abdominal symptoms.  Those who have specific antibodies against gluten circulating in their bloodstream but do not show intestinal damage are frequently unaware of the degree of detriment they suffer if they continue eating gluten; or they are completely unaware of antibodies against gluten, despite serious gluten-induced inflammation against a variety of other organ, tissue, and metabolic systems.


In summary, anyone suffering from any type of inflammatory condition should strongly consider going gluten free, if not daily then from Monday through Friday. Take little steps to eliminate it from the diet. Patients are suggested to eliminate it from one meal a day until for example it is never eaten at dinner. Then when the patient has adjusted to this change they can move on to make substitutes from sandwiches at lunch to alternative grains such as brown rice with their meals instead. Little steps over time make for great change and improvements in health.

There will be future articles about the latest research on how certain genotypes absolutely must avoid gluten and the types of symptoms they are most likely to suffer as a result. So stay tuned!

Please note:
Information on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.