Peptide therapy for allergic diseases: Basic mechanisms and new clinical approaches
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Desensitising allergen immunotherapy has been practised for many decades. Although time consuming, this form of therapy is antigen-specific and disease-modifying, in contrast to palliative pharmacotherapy. However, the use of allergen extracts containing native allergen molecules frequently results in allergic adverse reactions to treatment. Several strategies to reduce the allergenicity of therapeutic preparations, while maintaining their therapeutic benefit, are being developed. Peptide immunotherapy is one such approach. Short synthetic peptides, comprising T cell epitopes of major allergens, were unable to crosslink allergen-specific IgE molecules on basophils in vitro. Treatment of allergic volunteers with allergen peptides resulted in reduced skin, lung and nasal sensitivity to allergen challenge and improved their subjective ability to tolerate allergen exposure. Peptides reduced pro-inflammatory cytokine secretion from peripheral blood cells, whilst increasing the immunosuppressive cytokine IL-10. Furthermore, peptide therapy was associated with the induction of a population of CD4+ T cells with a suppressive functional phenotype. Thus, peptide therapy may be suitable for the antigen-specific treatment of allergic diseases.
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