Oral Immunotherapy for Allergic Conjunctivitis Using Transgenic Rice Expressing Hypoallergenic Antigens

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Pollinosis, or allergic conjunctivitis and rhinitis induced by pollen, is one of the most common diseases worldwide. In Japan, Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) pollinosis is a predominant allergic condition that affects more than one-third of all Japanese individuals. Pharmacological treatments of allergic conjunctivitis include administration of antiallergic eye drops containing an antihistamine or mast cell stabilizer. However, these topical treatments provide transient relief from symptoms. The only available curative treatment for allergic diseases is allergen-specific immunotherapy. Sublingual immunotherapy for pollinosis has been found to be effective for suppression of ocular and nasal symptoms, but patient compliance is low. Oral administration of staple foods engineered to express allergens is a possible means of delivering antigens for immunotherapy, and its convenience would be expected to improve compliance. With the aim of developing more convenient, effective, and safe immunotherapies for allergic diseases, we have generated rice-based edible vaccines expressing antigens derived from dust mites or pollen from Japanese cedar, birch, or ragweed. In this study, we summarize the results of our immunotherapy studies using transgenic rice. Oral immunotherapy with transgenic rice seeds containing hypoallergenic modified forms of Japanese cedar pollen antigens was effective for both preventing allergic conjunctivitis and suppressing established disease in mice. Oral administration of transgenic rice seeds is thus a promising approach to immunotherapy for conjunctivitis and rhinitis induced by Japanese cedar pollen.

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