While I absolutely love all dogs, petting certain breeds always makes my nose itch. If I don’t wash my hands right after feeding my pet, the itchy feeling can quickly turn into stuffy nose, itching and watery eyes. I’d rather live with dog allergies than avoid dogs entirely. But one day, I might be able to have the best of both worlds.
Research published in Federation of European Biochemical Societies (FEBS) Journal Reveal scientists are getting closer to creating a dog allergy vaccine.
According to the study authors, previous research identified seven different dog allergens. (An allergen is a substance that causes an allergic reaction.) Dog allergens cause allergic reactions because they bind to antibodies, a process that can trigger an unusually strong immune response in some people. (Antibodies are proteins in our blood that bind to invaders, such as allergens, in an attempt to destroy them. They also alert other parts of the body that foreign objects are in the body, creating an immune system response.)
Why this research could help create a dog allergy vaccine
While there are seven known dog allergens, the researchers in the FEBS study focused on only one: Can f 1. According to a research press release, Can f 1 is a protein that causes allergies in 50 to 75 percent of human dogs. So a vaccine created around Can f 1 could resolve most people’s symptoms. (Fun fact: Can f 1 is found in a dog’s tongue tissue, salivary glands, and skin. This explains why you can have an allergic reaction from licking your puppy even if you’re not touching your puppy’s fur.)
However, a vaccine is not possible unless scientists know where on the Can f 1 protein the human antibody binds. In other words: Scientists need to know where antibodies lock up.
With this in mind, the authors of the FEBS study used special X-ray techniques to map the structure of the Can f 1 protein. This helped them discover the protein’s folding pattern, which in turn helped them figure out where the antibody was most likely to bind to Can f 1 .
As the study authors explain, no other researchers have yet mapped the Can f 1 protein, which makes their discovery novel. Therefore, the FEBS study could be a big step toward a dog allergy vaccine.
While more research is needed, it’s good to know that I’m hopeful for a future without nasal congestion!