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Scientists conducted a study analysing evolution of pollen allergens

Posted August 5, 2016

It is said that everything in nature serves a purpose. In fact, even various viruses by some are considered to be nature‘s way of controlling population. Now scientists from University of Adelaide and Shanghai Jiao Tong University conducted a study, analysing evolution and possible functions of pollen allergens.

Pollen may be treasure for bees, but it is causing more and more trouble for allergic people. Image credit: Jon Sullivan via Wikimedia, Public Domain

Pollen may be treasure for bees, but it is causing more and more trouble for allergic people. Image credit: Jon Sullivan via Wikimedia, Public Domain

Conducting such researches nowadays is extremely important, because allergic diseases have become a global health problem in the past several decades. Scientists believe that their look into the problem may help finding novel ways of reducing and preventing allergic diseases such as asthma and allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever. Pollen is extremely small and pretty much everywhere, which makes pollen allergies very difficult to avoid. Previous studies have shown that half of perennial allergic rhinitis patients are sensitive to pollen allergens.

Despite how increasingly common pollen allergies are, it is very little known about their evolutionary history and why plants developed them in the first place. Now an international team of scientists decided to figure out this riddle. They performed a genome-wide analysis of potential pollen allergens. For this study they chose two plants: Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress) and rice. Then they compared these results in the context of 25 species of plants ranging from simple alga to complex flowering plants. This research allowed them to collect some valuable information about how plants learned to produce and maintain pollen allergens.

This research is extremely valuable for many science fields. Professor Dabing Zhang, leader of the project, said: “This genetic and evolutionary insight our work has provided will be useful in terms of both future medical and plant-breeding research focused on preventing pollen allergies. For instance it may help in the development of a vaccine or in modifying crop plants by screening out allergens during plant breeding”.

Completely eliminating pollen allergies may not be possible. However, having in mind they are increasing, science has to find a way of controlling them. Researches analysing why plants evolved these allergens may provide valuable knowledge, which will eventually lead to new prevention therapies.


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