New Research on Chronic Spontaneous Urticaria

Chronic spontaneous urticaria (CSU, also called “chronic idiopathic urticaria”) is a skin disease in which sufferers experience recurrent urticaria (“hives”) due to no apparent trigger. This debilitating disease affects 0.1% of the population and significantly reduces the quality of life of sufferers. CSU often presents a difficult clinical problem, as there is no reliable test to diagnose it or any treatment that specifically targets this disease.

In CSU, the immune system activates cells in the skin called mast cells and basophils. How this occurs is not completely understood. However, once the skin mast cells and basophils are activated, they release a chemical called histamine that is responsible for the hives.

In research that began in 2011, our group identified that, in a proportion of CSU patients, immune T cells target a protein called the IgE receptor (FcεRIα) on the surface of mast cells and basophils. This could be one way by which mast cells and basophils become activated in CSU. We also found that measuring T-cell responses to FcεRIα improved diagnostic accuracy. You can read about our findings in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

We are now working to identify the components (peptides) within the FcεRIα protein that T cells target in CSU. In other immunologic diseases such as allergy and coeliac disease, finding the peptides targeted by T cells has led to the development of peptide-based, disease-specific treatment. We hope that discovery of the T-cell peptide targets in CSU could similarly form the basis for potentially curative peptide-based treatment.

Posted on 26th March 2017