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

In the first of two articles on immunolgy, Mark Greener details developments in our understanding of allergy

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.

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