The Baker Institute for Animal Health at Cornell University is tackling allergy problems in pets like dogs and cats from a new, molecular viewpoint. In the newsletter released today, the Institute features two young researchers who plan to attack allergies.
Dr. Elia Tait Wojno, PhD specializes in immunity and immune disorders. When the immune system is working correctly it is vital to survival. Bacteria, viruses and fungi with the ability to injure or even kill an animal are attacked as soon as they enter a pet’s body. Sometimes however, the immune system “overreacts” to harmless invaders like pollen or other mild allergens. The actions that lies beneath allergy symptoms can make pets quite miserable. There are certain cells in the immune system that seem to be behind many allergies.
Dr. Wojno will partner with Dr. Charles Danko, PhD who studies how DNA sequences of species are set by cellular programs and how environmental factors such as allergens can influence those cellular programs. Dr. Danko can isolate cells from the immune system and see which genes are turned on or off by allergen exposures. Initially using mice, the researchers will look at the allergic reactions to see what genes are involved, search for any new inflammatory pathways that contribute to allergy symptoms and eventually look for ways to relieve symptoms or even prevent the development of symptoms. Once some of the “kinks” have been worked out in mice, the next step would be to analyze blood samples from dogs who visit the Cornell University Hospital for Animals for allergy relief.
Research from animal models is then often applied to human medicine. So itchy mice and dogs may eventually lead to new treatments for people with allergies along with a better understanding of what causes allergies and why some people suffer from them and others don’t. In addition, the knowledge gained could potentially be used to tackle other, even more serious, immune diseases in pets and people.