Scientists at Duke Health researched the mechanism by which immune cells are activated during anaphylactic shock. What they found could open up possibilities for the future of treatment, reports The Chronicle, an independent news organization at Duke University.

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The team’s work, published in the Nov 9 issue of the journal Science, used mice models to discover that immune cells—dendritic cells—establish the contact between mast cells and allergens, sending the body into shutdown mode. With this discovery, new approaches can be developed to tackle deadly anaphylaxis.

“We found that the dendritic cells play a direct role in anaphylactic shock, which opens up huge possibilities for future medicine,” said Hae-Woong Choi, lead author and researcher in Duke’s Department of Pathology.

Allergies occur when the body mistakenly deems a substance harmful, causing mast cells to release mediators that cause symptoms such as watery eyes and a runny nose. Anaphylaxis is more dangerous than a regular allergy response, and can cause difficulty breathing, lowered blood pressure and death.