The researchers, reporting in PNAS, suggest that inhibiting these currents can inhibit histamine .

Inhibiting the proton channels in basophils, a rare type of white blood cell, can stop the release of histamine, according to researchers at Rush University Medical Center and the Johns Hopkins Asthma and Allergy Center.

“Our research shows that proton channels in basophils respond vigorously to agents that elicit histamine release,” states Thomas DeCoursey, Ph.D., professor of molecular biophysics and physiology at Rush. “We also determined that histamine was inhibited by zinc at concentrations that inhibit proton currents, consistent with the idea that proton-channel activity is linked to basophil activation.”

Dr. DeCoursey says that this research opens up a a new target for drug developers, since the release of histamine can be stopped by preventing the channel from working. Currently, the most potent inhibitor is zinc, but zinc is toxic in high concentrations and the body regulates zinc levels very closely, he continues. The goal is to develop a more selective inhibitor of the proton channel that would bind to it and prevent its activity without doing harm.

The study will be published in the August 5 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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