Adenosine in ambrosia pollen exacerbates allergy

The common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) produces pollen which can trigger strong reactions such as asthma. A research team headed by Prof. Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann, who is on the Board of Directors of CK-CARE (Christine Kühne – Center for Allergy Research and Education), has shown that what was previously known as the principal allergen only has such a strong allergenic effect when combined with the substance adenosine, which is also present in the pollen.

The weed Ambrosia artemisiifolia is an invasive plant from North America, which has two challenging characteristics for humans: it is spreading rapidly in Europe – it is also colonising regions in Switzerland – and its pollen has an allergy-promoting effect even in minute quantities. If ambrosia pollen gets into the airways, it induces severe inflammation in the lung tissue. This can produce breathing problems or even asthma. The main trigger in ambrosia pollen was previously thought to be a protein called “Amb a 1”. A lot of people who have come into contact with ambrosia pollen develop antibodies to this substance. This is basically a protective mechanism of the body against unwanted substances or pathogens, but it is initiated in error when a person has an allergy.
However, the protein Amb a 1 is apparently not solely responsible for the inflammatory effect of the ambrosia pollen, as shown by a team led by Prof. Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann, Director of the Institute of Environmental Medicine at the Technical University of Munich (UNIKA-T, TUM) and member of the Board of Directors of CK-CARE (Christine Kühne – Center for Allergy Research and Education): “This only becomes highly allergenic when in combination with adenosine, which is also contained in ambrosia pollen,” states Prof. Claudia Traidl-Hoffman.

The search for the unknown substance
According to the media release from TUM, the researchers studied how different constituents of the pollen acted on lung tissue. The lung tissue was then tested for indicators of inflammation – such as the presence of specific immune cells. The whole pollen extract or the protein Amb a 1 was tested, while at the same time the pollen extract without proteins was also tested. The results were surprising and revealing, as Prof. Traidl-Hoffmann outlines: “Only the whole extract triggered an allergic effect, making it clear that another substance must be causing the allergenic action of the pollen as well as the protein Amb a 1.”
Adenosine was considered as an interesting candidate for substance X. The researchers had already detected it in high concentrations in birch pollen and it is also present in large quantities in ambrosia pollen. They hit the bull’s eye with this theory: once adenosine had been removed from the whole pollen extract, only very slight signs of inflammation occurred. Similarly, if adenosine was administered alone, no pronounced allergic reaction was observed in the lungs. This means: “Only the combination of substances causes an allergic reaction,” concludes Prof. Claudia Traidl-Hoffman.

Will we soon have a possible remedy for allergic asthma?
An interesting aspect is that adenosine is found naturally in the human body. It is involved in lots of processes and nearly all cells carry recognition molecules for adenosine on their surface. So how does adenosine actually intensify an allergic reaction? “Pollen adenosine binds to the endogenous receptors and, in combination with other substances, can trigger allergies”, explains Prof. Claudia Traidl-Hoffman. The research group calls this phenomenon “cross-kingdom signalling”, in which plant messengers bind to human receptors.
The results of the study are also promising with regard to treatment. So-called adenosine receptor antagonists are drugs that can help to treat asthma by blocking the adenosine receptors in the body. Therefore this aspect is also important in terms of research into pollen allergy. “The results show that adenosine plays a key role, especially in the exacerbation of an allergic reaction. This means the inflammatory reaction could be inhibited by blocking the adenosine receptors, where possible”, states the doctor and researcher.

M. Wimmer, F. Alessandrini, S. Gilles, U. Frank, S. Oeder, M. Hauser, J. Ring, F. Ferreira, D. Ernst, J. B. Winkler, P. Schmitt-Kopplin, C. Ohnmacht, H. Behrendt, C. Schmidt-Weber, C. Traidl-Hoffmann, J. Gutermuth, Pollen-derived adenosine is a necessary cofactor for ragweed allergy, Allergy, May 2015.
DOI: 10.1111/all.12642

Claudio Rhyner, PhD appointed as the new Managing Director

On 1 October 2020, Claudio Rhyner succeeded Dr. Georg Schäppi as Managing Director of CK-CARE. Georg Schäppi was appointed CEO at the University Children’s Hospital Zurich as of 1 December, 2020.

Claudio Rhyner was born and grew up in Davos. After studying chemistry and molecular biology, he graduated specialising in asthma and allergy research. He was active in fundamental scientific research, including as head of the research “Vaccine Development” group at the SIAF (Swiss Institute of Allergy and Asthma Research). In this capacity he published numerous publications and filed several patents. After holding a leading position in a SME in molecular diagnostics, he became CEO of Biosciences Davos. Biosciences Davos is a spin-off organisation of CK-CARE in the field of biobanking and is part of the Medizincampus Davos. He continues to hold this position.

In his private life, Claudio Rhyner is actively engaged in politics and culture in the Davos community. He also completed a postgraduate degree in the field of management of small and medium-sized companies at the University St. Gallen.

Atopic dermatitis: an expanding therapeutic pipeline for a complex disease

Our founder, Prof. Thomas Bieber, published an important contribution in the treatment of AD:

Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a common chronic inflammatory skin disease with a complex pathophysiology that underlies a wide spectrum of clinical phenotypes. AD remains challenging to treat owing to the limited response to available therapies. However, recent advances in understanding of disease mechanisms have led to the discovery of novel potential therapeutic targets and drug candidates

In addition to regulatory approval for the IL-4Ra inhibitor dupilumab, the anti-IL-13 inhibitor tralokinumab and the JAK1/2 inhibitor baricitinib in Europe, there are now more than 70 new compounds in development. This Review assesses the various strategies and novel agents currently being investigated for AD and highlights the potential for a precision medicine approach to enable prevention and more effective long-term control of this complex disease.

read more…

Kühne-Foundation Annual Report 2020

“Key priority of the Kühne Foundation is the support for training, further education as well as research and science in the area of logistics. This also includes Humanitarian Logistics and a project concentrating on free global trade.
Another focal point is our medicine funding through research, therapy, and education in the fields of allergology and cardiology. In Davos, Switzerland, we operate the Hochgebirgsklinik, a renowed rehabilitation hospital owned by us, and various research institutions. In the cultural sector, we support leading opera houses and concert halls and belong to the main sponsors of the Salzburg Festival and Lucerne Festival.”

Prof. Dr. h.c. Klaus-Michael Kühne

Covid-19 risk increases with airborne pollen

When airborne pollen levels are higher, increased SARS-CoV-2 infection rates can be observed. These results were determined by a large-scale study conducted by an international team headed by researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Helmholtz Zentrum München. Members of high-risk groups could protect themselves by watching pollen forecasts and wearing dust filter masks.

In the spring of 2020, the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic appeared to coincide with the tree pollen season in the northern hemisphere. These observations prompted an international team of researchers to conduct an extensive investigation: The scientists wanted to know whether there is a demonstrable link between airborne pollen concentrations and SARS-CoV-2 infection rates.

Pollen is a significant environmental factor influencing infection rates
Based on CK-CARE research and under the leadership of first author Athanasios Damialis, the team at the Chair of Environmental Medicine at TUM collected data on airborne pollen concentrations, weather conditions and SARS-CoV-2 infections – taking into consideration the variation of infection rates from one day to another and the total number of positive tests. In their calculations, the team also included data on population density and the effects of lockdown measures. The 154 researchers analyzed pollen data from 130 stations in 31 countries on five continents.

„Wearing a particle filtering mask when pollen concentrations are high can keep both the virus and pollen out of the airways.”— Prof. Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann

The team showed that airborne pollen can account for, on average, 44 percent of the variation in infection rates, with humidity and air temperature also playing a role in some cases. During intervals without lockdown regulations, infection rates were on average 4 percent higher with every increase of 100 grains of airborne pollen per cubic meter. In some German cities, concentrations of up to 500 pollen grains per cubic meter per day were recorded during the study – which led to an overall increase in infection rates of more than 20 percent. In regions where lockdown rules were in effect, however, the infection numbers were on average only half as high at comparable pollen concentrations.

Continuing Medical Education Activities for Improved Management of Allergy

Effectiveness and sustainability of continuing medical education activities are, in general, a huge challenge. Given the frequency of allergic diseases, the increasing prevalence, the burden of the disease, the degree of suffering and the age of onset, there is a need for paediatricians to have in-depth knowledge and skills in allergology. We developed a needs-based course for Swiss paediatricians in primary care, where the relevant competencies are acquired in modular, multi-method learning activities.

The teaching is focused on filling gaps and aims at a behavioural change. To facilitate this change and the transfer of acquired competence into daily practice, a commitment-to-change (CTC) strategy was introduced. Paediatricians found four key elements decisive to change their clinical practice: problem-oriented, reflective, situated learning and convenience in learning/applying. Allergy education should help physicians to improve their knowledge, skills and attitudes in order to better perform and provide improved care to their allergy patients.

For more details please refer to the “Letter to the Editor” published by D. Straub Piccirillo, P. Schmid-Grendelmeier, M. Hitzler, R. Lauener in Allergy. 2018 Jun;73(6):1351-1353. doi: 10.1111/all.13443. Epub 2018 Apr 17.