Newsbriefs Protein helps incite late-phase allergy attacks ----------------------------------------------------------------- Scientists at Johns Hopkins have found an important culprit in "late-phase" allergy attacks--symptoms that strike hours after exposure to an allergy-provoking substance like animal dander or pollen. The discovery provides new clues to the biological differences that leave half of all allergy patients suffering late-phase attacks. It could also help efforts to stop or reduce these symptoms. In normal allergic reactions, a protein called an IgE antibody binds to the surface of a basophil, an immune system cell. The IgE antibody is chemically tailored to recognize an allergen, a foreign substance like dander or pollen. When the IgE antibody encounters that substance while bound to a basophil, the basophil releases histamine, a chemical that causes typical allergy symptoms such as itching and swelling. Because late-phase allergy attacks occur long after initial exposure to allergens, scientists suspected that substances produced by the body triggered these reactions. Immunologist Susan MacDonald, and her team have found such a trigger in fluids washed from the lungs of patients suffering late-phase asthma. Dr. MacDonald isolated and copied a gene for a protein called IgE-dependent histamine-releasing factor. The gene for HRF protein previously had been identified and reproduced, but Dr. MacDonald is the first to identify one of the protein's functions. She discovered that histamine also is sometimes released when HRF reacts with the basophil-IgE combination. Further experiments showed that the reaction only occurs in the presence of IgE antibodies from late-phase patients, especially those with asthma. "Based on this discovery, we refer to IgE protein in late-phase allergy sufferers as IgE+," Dr. MacDonald said. "We'd like to know what the molecular differences are in this form of IgE." Dr. MacDonald said doctors will try to determine whether HRF binds chemically to the basophil or to IgE+. They also plan to study the factors that affect production of HRF, which is made in immune system cells. Dr. MacDonald presented the results of her studies last month at the annual meetings of the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology in New York City. The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health. Registry will help doctors explore fifth-deadliest cancer ----------------------------------------------------------------- Researchers at The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions are assembling what is believed to be the first national database on pancreatic cancer patients and their families. Organizers say the new resource, called the National Familial Pancreas Tumor Registry, will help scientists answer important questions about this deadly form of cancer. "Our first goal is to use the registry to learn if pancreatic cancer runs in families," said Ralph Hruban, a Hopkins associate professor of pathology. "If that's so, we'll take a look at how many pancreatic cancer patients have family histories of the problem, and what the patterns of inheritance are," Dr. Hruban said. The patterns, said Hopkins researcher Scott Kern, an assistant professor of pathology, can help narrow his search for the genetic origins of pancreatic cancer. The information and blood and tissue samples in the registry also will help other researchers working on improved diagnostic tests and genetic therapies for the cancer. Hopkins physicians perform an unusually large number of pancreatic cancer surgeries; about 120 patients had their pancreas cancers removed at Hopkins last year. The presence of a very experienced multidisciplinary team of surgical and scientific specialists makes Hopkins an ideal location for the pancreatic cancer registry, Dr. Hruban said. To register, a patient, family member or physician can contact one of the registry's administrators, Medhat Osman or Amanda Lietman, at 955-9132 or 614-3405. The registry will send a detailed questionnaire and requests for tissue samples to the patient and their family. The National Familial Pancreas Tumor Registry is funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the departments of Surgery and Pathology at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Pancreatic cancers are the fifth-deadliest form of cancer. Approximately 27,000 patients are diagnosed with the cancers every year; 26,000 die of pancreatic cancer annually. Famous victims include the actor Michael Landon and the mother, brother and sister of former President Jimmy Carter. Landon's son, Michael Landon Jr., has enrolled in the registry and publicly endorsed it. Clifton Mansion, country home of Johns Hopkins, to get facelift ----------------------------------------------------------------- The Clifton Mansion, the country estate of university founder Johns Hopkins--and the intended site of the university's main campus--will be restored in the coming months, thanks to a $200,000 bond bill enacted by the Maryland General Assembly in 1994 and grants from the William G. Baker Jr. Memorial Fund and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The plans for the restoration will be developed by local architect John Brunnett, and construction phases will be coordinated by the mansion's current occupant, Civic Works, an Americorp program. Hopkins purchased the two-story brick home of merchant and planter Henry Thompson at auction in 1841 for $15,800. At his death in 1873, Hopkins had acquired 330 acres of land around his home, which he cultivated extensively with fields, groomed lawns, orchards and graperies. He also expanded the original house in an Italian villa style, adding a third story with its prominent tower, and built numerous outbuildings. In his will, Hopkins bequeathed the country estate to the university for the express purpose of creating a main campus. But the university did not immediately develop the site, and in 1895, the city of Baltimore acquired the property. Much of the original Hopkins estate is still intact, being used since the early part of the 20th century as a golf course.
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