Groundbreaking new research at the Malaghan Institute in Wellington has found that immune cells in the skin behave differently than their counterparts found elsewhere in the body, suggesting they play a much bigger role in the onset of allergies than originally thought. Immune cells rely on unique chemical signals to inform them about whether and how to react to potential threats in the body. One of these signals is called IL-13, a molecule that is made when immune cells detect cellular damage caused by allergens or parasite infections.
The discovery is the culmination of several years’ work led by Professor Franca Ronchese of the Malaghan Institute, and throws into question the long held belief that the body’s immune cells all behave the same, regardless of where they are.
Professor Ronchese and her team believe it might be a key piece to the puzzle in understanding why the skin is so often ‘ground zero’ for people developing allergic conditions not just in the skin, but elsewhere in the body.