Hay Fever Might Alter the Brain, By Honor Whiteman

August 10, 2016, 4:25 am

In mouse models of grass pollen allergy, researchers found that exposure to an allergen led to both the development of new neurons - or nerve cells - and reduced activity of immune cells in the hippocampus of the brain.

The hippocampus is the brain region important for memory and learning.

Study co-author Barbara Klein, of Paracelsus Medical University in Salzburg, Austria, and colleagues recently published their findings in the journal Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, around 40-60 million people in the United States havehay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis.

Seasonal hay fever usually occurs in spring, summer, and early fall. The condition arises when the body's immune system becomes sensitized to a number of allergens or irritants, most commonly pollens from grass, trees, and weeds.

Symptoms of hay fever include runny or stuffy nose, itchy eyes, mouth, or skin, sneezing, and fatigue.

 

Increased neurogenesis, reduced microglia activity with allergic reaction

Klein and colleagues note that previous research has suggested allergic reactions may affect functions within the central nervous system (CNS) - particularly functions related to memory and learning.

The team further investigated this association by assessing how an allergic reaction affected the brains of mice with a grass pollen allergy. Their brains were then compared with mice that did not have a grass pollen allergy - the controls.

Compared with the control mice, the brains of allergic mice demonstrated greater neurogenesis in the hippocampus of the brain when exposed to grass pollen.

What is more, the researchers found that an allergic reaction to grass pollen reduced microglia activity in the hippocampus of the rodents. Microglia are the primary immune cells of the CNS; they are the brain's first line of defense against pathogens.

Klein says they were surprised to find reduced microglia activity in the hippocampus due to an allergic reaction, partly because previous studies have shown increased microglia activity in this brain region in response to bacterial infections.

"We know that the response of immune system in the body is different in case of an allergic reaction vs. a bacterial infection. What this tells us is that the effect on the brain depends on type of immune reaction in the body."

Barbara Klein

The researchers say they are unable to say how these allergy-induced brain changes affect CNS function.

They point out that neurogenesis in the hippocampus normally declines with age, contributing to memory-related disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, and this study suggests that allergic reaction increases neurogenesis.

"So far, we can only hypothesize that the observed increase in hippocampal neurogenesis may also have functional consequences on long-term potentiation or learning and memory," the authors note. "For this, further studies including electrophysiological analysis and behavioral tests are needed."

On the other hand, they speculate that reduced microglia activity in the hippocampus due to allergic reaction could have "detrimental consequences," particularly if such activity is eliminated for long periods.

"Clearly, more experiments investigating the impact of different types of systemic inflammation on the CNS are needed to further the understanding about the interplay between peripheral immune activation and CNS functions," the authors conclude.

Credit: Honor Whiteman

Follow us on Twitter @theglobengr

Like this story? Get on the list for updates...it's FREE!.

Related News

LATEST POSTS

Tuface, Annie in Benue To Support Flood Victims

The popular musician, Innocent Idibia, popularly known as TuFace, has arrived at the camp for internally displaced persons in Makurdi, the Benue St....

UEFA Extends Kit Assistance Scheme to 2022

UEFA has extended its successful Kit Assistance Scheme, which supports Europe’s smaller national associations....

We're ready to prove Judiciary wrong, says Uhuru, asks IEBC to set dates

President Uhuru Kenyatta has asked the electoral agency to announce the dates for the repeat presidential elections as soon as possible.

....

IEBC Made Deliberate Mistakes, NASA Lawyers Tell Supreme Court

Presidential election results declared were not based on evidence, Raila Odinga's lawyers have said, citing the mismatch of results in Forms 34....

Uber Picks Expedia's Dara Khosrowshahi As New CEO

Uber Technologies Inc chose Dara Khosrowshahi, the chief executive of travel company Expedia Inc, as its chief executive on Sunday, according to tw....

Share