Allergies could be ascribed to a genetic defect

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In the search for the causes of allergies, US researchers have apparently made progress. According to a study published in "Science Translational Medicine", scientists at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (Maryland) found a genetic defect that until now has only been associated with connective tissue disorders, but which could also play an important role in the development of allergic reactions.

58 children and young adolescents (ages 7 to 20) who suffered from the Loeys-Dietz syndrome - a connective tissue disease triggered by genetic defects in the molecule TGF-beta - were examined. The researchers discovered that this mutation could also be responsible for a series of other body responses such as asthma, food allergies and eczema.

According to the scientists, false signals from the molecule TGF-beta contribute to a fundamental process in the development of allergies, in which the faulty gene disrupts the response of immune cells to common foods and allergenic substances in the environment.

"Disruption in TGF-beta signalling does not simply nudge immune cells to misbehave", said cardiologist Harry Dietz. It appeared that the genetic defect "singlehandedly unlocks the very chain reaction that eventually leads to allergic disease."