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HomeminewsNew Study Sheds Light on Allergic Conjunctivitis

New Study Sheds Light on Allergic Conjunctivitis

Researchers from Japan have discovered that specialised epithelial cells play an important role in the development of conjunctival disease, uncovering a novel therapeutic target for treating allergic conjunctivitis.

When it comes to eye allergies, the transition from allergen contact to bothersome symptoms has always been quick, appearing within a span of a few minutes. The first step in the development of the allergic conjunctivitis is the penetration of the allergen through the epithelial layer. However, the mechanism of allergen transport is still unknown.

Now, a team from Juntendo University in Japan has found that goblet cell-associated antigen passage formed by specialised epithelial cells called “goblet cells” plays an important role.1

The research team, which included Associate Professor Dr Tomoaki Ando, set out to unravel the regulatory mechanism in the development of allergic conjunctivitis.

This breakthrough can not only demystify the rapid onset of allergic conjunctivitis but also offer hope for more effective treatments in the future

“Previously, we reported that the pollen shells and the soluble factors play non-redundant roles in the development of allergic conjunctivitis. At that time, we revealed that the pollen shells stimulate conjunctival epithelial cells to release IL-33, which is an important cytokine for the development of allergy,” explained Dr Ando.2

“In this study, we aimed to further elucidate the roles of particulate allergens such as pollen shells in the development of allergic conjunctivitis.”

The researchers used an allergic conjunctivitis mouse model. The conjunctiva of the mice were subjected to topical applications of various allergens. The researchers then performed the conjunctival tissue analysis using advanced tissue clearing techniques and fluorescence imaging. Additionally, flow cytometry was used to identify immune cells within the conjunctiva.

A Remarkable Discovery

What they discovered was remarkable: the introduction of pollen shells into the eye triggered the rapid formation of what is known as “goblet cell-associated antigen passages” (GAPs) within the conjunctiva.

These specialised passages, formed by specialised epithelial cells called “goblet cells” found on the surface of various moist tissues in the body, have never been observed before in the context of eye allergies.

“Our study shows that a nerve-driven goblet cell activation enables the rapid transport of allergen through conjunctiva and promotes allergic reaction,” Dr Ando said.

The researchers also observed that the sensory nervous system played a vital role in this process.

This breakthrough can not only demystify the rapid onset of allergic conjunctivitis but also offer hope for more effective treatments in the future. Understanding the role of goblet cells and GAPs in ocular sensitisation represents a significant step towards providing relief for the millions of people affected by allergic eye conditions worldwide.

“The approach in our study can be extended further to develop new drugs that can control the activation and aid in the treatment of allergic conjunctivitis,” Dr Ando said.

References

  1. Kimura, M., Ando, T., Kitaura, J., et al., A nerve-goblet cell association promotes allergic conjunctivitis through the rapid antigen passage, JCI Insight. DOI: doi.org/10.1172/jci.insight.168596.
  2. Juntendo University Research Promotion Center, New Study Sheds Light on the Developmental Mechanism of Allergic Conjunctivitis (media release), 17 October 2023.