UCI-led study reveals that cells involved in allergies also play a key role in survival
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Irvine, Calif. – October 11, 2018 – In a University of California, Irvine-led study, researchers found evidence that mast cells, an important group of immune cells typically associated with allergies, actually enable the body to survive fasting or intense exercise. The study was published today in Cell Metabolism.

Typically found in the lungs and nose, mast cells are best known for their role in the body’s allergic response. During an allergy attack, mast cells release a chemical called histamine into the bloodstream, which causes sneezing, runny nose, and other symptoms related to allergies. Drugs used to treat allergies block the annoying consequences of mast cell activity.

In this new study, led by Daniele Piomelli, PhD, professor of anatomy and neurobiology at UCI School of Medicine, and director of the UCI Center for the Study of Cannabis, researchers found that fasting causes the release of histamine from a select group of mast cells present in the gut, not those in the lungs or the nose. The histamine released from the gut travels to the liver where it triggers the formation of a fat-derived molecule called oleoylethanolamide (OEA).

Until now, researchers thought that OEA’s main role was to block hunger. This

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