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What lies beneath: the biology of allergy and the hope for new drugs

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New research has opened up the possibility New research has opened up the possibility of a new generation of anti-allergy medication

The mainstays of the management of atopic diseases are relatively unselective. Emollients, for example, supply lipids, which soften dry, eczematous skin. Emollients also form an occlusive layer, which reduces water loss.1 Corticosteroids suppress many aspects of the immune system.2

However, an unprecedented understanding of the immunology underlying atopic diseases is resulting in a new generation of drugs that act on specific cytokines (chemicals that pass signals between white blood cells and between leucocytes and other tissues). As the number of drugs acting on these mediators grows, nurses will need to be increasingly familiar the underlying biology of these common diseases. So, this article discusses some aspects of the allergic response that are currently attracting attention.

White blood cells

When you send a sample to the laboratory after phlebotomy, the technician centrifuges the blood. Centrifuged blood separates into three layers: plasma (the top layer); erythrocytes (the bottom later), which account for a quarter of all cells in the body; and the buffy coat, which contains white blood cells (leucocytes) and platelets (Table 1).3

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