A team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Institute of Translational Immunology of Mainz University Medical Center have begun investigation into the role of chemicals in allergies. The joint effort, called the Mainz Center for Chemical Allergology, looks into atmospheric pollutants or chemical changes to food and their possible role in allergies.

“Studies have shown that previously known allergens can change as a result of pollution or cultivation conditions and the growing of crops, which we were able to demonstrate, for example, in wheat. Their characteristics can be modified and thus also the type and severity of allergies and hypersensitivities they trigger,” said Professor Detlef Schuppan, head of the Institute of Translational Immunology and one of the founders of the project.

Two lines of investigation, one goal.

The researchers are pursuing two lines of investigation. One, scientists are hoping to find out how specific inflammatory processes which affect allergies can be inhibited or interrupted through plant ingredients. This would find natural allergen inhibitors and, in turn, could show what may be being removed from foods through chemical or other processes of production and preparation.

The other aim is to explore fundamental questions about what turns something into an allergen or immunogen. This might better define why some things trigger formation of antibodies or cell responses in some people and not others. For example, some allergens can be altered by things in the atmosphere such as ozone or nitrogen oxide. Microscopic dust particles can also be catalysts for changes.

In both approaches, the role of pollution would be highlighted, if there is any.

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