Thursday, November 4, 2010

A shared resource for immunotherapy

I'm off tomorrow to New Haven for the annual meeting of the National Association of Science Writers. A junket that will see me absent at the kids' bedtime not once, but twice, as Hidden B pointed out, using this as a cudgel to get me to change a particularly stinky diaper. So the blog will resume on Monday.

I'm pressed for time tonight, too. Have to go get some cash, pick up an organics CSA box that is contending for the status of all-time most inconvenient birthday present, make dinner, and pack. Flying into the fair city of Hartford, departing Oakland at 07:35. You may recall an earlier post in which I awarded a Mark Twain Steel Trap Award to the gentlemen responsible for the FAA's no-moisturizer-in-carryons law. Messrs. Ali, Sarwar, et al. were on my mind the other day as I purchased a small, but filthy expensive, tube of Eucerin that will see me through the next two-and-a-half days.

The eczema news of the day is a little tangential. A few posts ago, I wrote about sublingual immunotherapy. The idea in this technique is that if your eczema arises predominantly from an allergy to one thing, you try to induce your immune system to become tolerant to that thing, thereby reducing your eczema symptoms. In the past, immunotherapy doctors have injected allergens. Now, for the wimpy, there is the (slightly less effective) droplet-under-the-tongue, or "sublingual," technique. The doctor gives you a small bottle of drops and you take one or a few a day; the allergens get taken up by dendritic cells in your mucosal linings, and presented to T cells, and thus (the hope is), your body learns that the allergen is no big deal and shouldn't induce an eczema reaction.

For scientists in the realm of immunotherapy research--the study of techniques to induce tolerance in autoimmune and allergic diseases--there is now a new resource at the University of California, San Francisco. UCSF's BioShare, a bank of over 100,000 specimens from a ten-year federal project to catalog biomarkers of various diseases, is now offering its samples openly to qualified researchers. The samples were taken from patients with thoroughly diagnosed conditions, at well-defined points in the progression of the diseases. So now you can analyze the samples to see how much of this or that protein or hormone or whatever the body is producing at each point-- and how the body alters its output when immunotherapy is given. It's a way to measure whether the immunotherapy is working or not.

Have a good weekend.

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