Researchers at the University of Yamanashi have found that manipulation of the biological clock in human and mouse cells can reduce the effects of hay fever, they have announced.
"We have made advancements in the development of treatment drugs" for hay fever, said professor of immunology Atsuhito Nakao, of the university's Faculty of Medicine & Graduate School of Medical Science.
Hay fever occurs when immune system cells in the mucous membranes of the nose, eyes and elsewhere react to the presence of pollen. In particular, allergic symptoms like sneezing and a stuffed nose are said to tend to be lighter in the afternoon and worse at night and in the morning.
Nakao and the other researchers had already determined that within cells of the immune system, proteins that affect the biological clock are involved in this relation between time of day and severity of symptoms. The reduction of one of these proteins is also known to lead to worse symptoms, and an enzyme called "casein kinase" breaks down and reduces this protein. In their research, Nakao's group gave mice a substance that reduces the activity of casein kinase. The substance they gave was a compound produced by an American pharmaceutical company as it worked on a drug for insomnia.
When the mice were given the substance, they exhibited fewer hay fever symptoms like sneezing and nose itchiness. The team also says that when they did the same experiment with immune system cells taken from people with hay fever, the cells showed indications of reduced symptoms. The team believes the changes occurred because the biological clock switched over from "night" to "day."
Professor Nakao is working with the pharmaceutical company toward marketing the drug, which he believes could work on allergy sufferers.
"A new treatment approach, different from what we have seen until now, will become possible," he says.