The protein interleukin-33 might play a key role in creating sensitivity to allergens in neonates, according to research published in the journal Cell Press

Using mice as models, the researchers investigated immune response to house dust mites by exposing newborn mice to the allergen first to sensitize them, and then again to provoke an immune response. They were surprised to observe that mice sensitized to house dust mites on day 14 after birth showed greater type 2 immune responses when exposed again to the allergen than adult mice, mice exposed on day 3.

Prof. Bart Lambrecht (VIB-UGent): “We identified day 14 after birth as the point at which there were more type 2 immune cells present in the neonatal lung than in the adult lung, and we observed that these cells were producing more of the protein interleukin-33. Mice without the IL-33 receptor showed a much smaller type 2 immune response. Even further, if mice exposed to house dust mites on day 14 were simultaneously given a decoy receptor that binds to IL-33, the resulting type 2 immune response to the second house dust mite exposure was much smaller. This underlines IL-33’s role in immunity in these newborn mice.”

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