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Date: March 29, 2005
Level: Intermediate +
Downloads: This Lesson (Word Doc) | Class Handout (Word Doc) | Class Handout (PDF)

THE ARTICLE

Scientists have successfully tested a new chemical compound that could bring instant relief to those who suffer from cat allergies. Researchers from the UCLA School of Medicine designed and tested a “chimeric human-cat fusion protein”, or, a laboratory-created chemical made by mixing proteins from cats and humans. The result blocked the cat allergy in mice and in human cells. The study, to be released in the April issue of Nature magazine, indicates the same results could happen in humans. The researchers say their discovery “may provide a new therapeutic platform for the immune-based therapy of allergic disease”.

Allergies happen because our immune systems mistake cat allergens, or other allergens such as pollen, for germs; our bodies react by releasing the chemical histamine, which causes rashes, swelling, sneezing, itchy eyes and other symptoms. An estimated ten per cent of people are allergic to cats. If the human-cat protein is successful in clinical trials on humans, cures for other allergies could quickly follow, bringing relief to millions. It could end the misery for hay fever sufferers and may prevent people who are allergic to peanuts from dying. However, prescription or over-the-counter medicines are still many years away.

WARM UPS

1. CHAT: Talk in pairs or groups about cats/ allergies / designer drugs / mice / political animal testing / rashes / sneezing / hay fever / peanuts / …

To make things more dynamic, try telling your students they only have one minute (or 2) on each chat topic before changing topics / partners. Change topic / partner frequently to increase conversation.

2. ALLERGY BRAINSTORM: Spend one minute writing down all of the different words you associate with the word ‘allergy’. Share your words with your partner / group and talk about them.

3. ALLERGENS: How does being allergic to something change your life? Below is a list of common allergens. Discuss the kind of misery these allergens might cause and which would be the worst allergy:

  • pollen (hay fever)
  • penicillin
  • nuts
  • seafood
  • eggs
  • milk
  • soy products
  • house dust
  • animal hair
  • plastic

4. OTHER ALLERGIES: Read these people's comments about some “new” allergies.

  1. “I’m allergic to my boss. I get feelings of anger every time I look at him.” - Lee, 32, Singapore.
  2. “I’m allergic to my wife. Every time I hear her voice I have a sudden urge to get my golf clubs and play golf.” - Hank, 48, USA.
  3. “I have an allergy to telephone bills. Every time I pick up the envelope from the mail box I start shaking.” - Mohammed, 25, Kenya.
  4. “I’m allergic to English. I become nervous, I sweat and start scratching my head when I can’t think of the correct word.” - Pip, 87, Thailand.
  5. “I suffer from a ‘waking up early’ allergy. I’m grouchy, I don’t want to talk and I stare at the wall a lot.” - Kumiko, 30, Japan.
  6. “My allergy is to cigarette smoke. I suddenly become very violent when I smell it in the street or in a non-smoking area.” - Kylie, 19, Australia.
  7. “I think I’m allergic to love. There’s someone in my gym who’s amazingly gorgeous. Every time they look at me or say “hi”, I go weak at the knees and my lips turn to jelly.” - Saraya, 24, India.
  8. “I’m allergic to working. It makes me feel bad.” - Paolo, 28, Brazil.

Talk about these new allergies with your partner. Do you suffer from any of them? To what degree? What advice would you give each sufferer? What other modern allergies can you think of (hamburgers, computers, spending money, traffic jams, George W. Bush…).


 
 

PRE-READING IDEAS

1. WORD SEARCH: Students look in their dictionaries / computer to find collocates, other meanings, information, synonyms … of the words ‘chemical’ and ‘compound’.

2. TRUE / FALSE: Look at the headline and guess whether these sentences are true or false:

  1. Scientists have discovered a drug for cats who are allergic to humans.  T / F
  2. A new half-cat, half-human chemical compound has been made.  T / F
  3. The new compound means mice will no longer be afraid of cats.  T / F
  4. The discovery may provide new ways of treating allergies.  T / F
  5. Allergies happen when our bodies mistake allergens, such as pollen, for germs.  T / F
  6. Symptoms of allergies include swelling, rashes, sneezing and itchy eyes.  T / F
  7. Two per cent of people are allergic to cats.  T / F
  8. Over-the-counter cat allergy medicines will be available later this year.  T / F

3. SYNONYM MATCH: Match the following synonyms from the article:

(a)

compound

mixture

(b)

suffer

suggests

(c)

fusion

respond

(d)

indicates

laboratory

(e)

platform

confuse

(f)

mistake

suffering

(g)

react

manifestations

(h)

symptoms

composite

(i)

clinical

base

(j)

misery

experience

4. PHRASE MATCH: Match the following phrases from the article (sometimes more than one combination is possible):

(a)

successfully

disease

(b)

bring instant

systems

(c)

human

ten per cent of people

(d)

the same results could

relief

(e)

therapy of allergic

the misery for hay fever sufferers

(f)

our immune

trials

(g)

our bodies react

cells

(h)

An estimated

tested

(i)

clinical

happen in humans

(j)

It could end

by releasing the chemical histamine

 

WHILE READING ACTIVITIES

1. GAP-FILL:  Put the words on the right into the gaps.

New molecule blocks cat allergy

Scientists have successfully __________ a new chemical __________ that could bring instant relief to those who suffer from cat allergies. Researchers from the UCLA School of Medicine designed and tested a “chimeric human-cat fusion protein”, or, a laboratory-created chemical made by __________ proteins from cats and humans. The result blocked the cat allergy in mice and in human __________. The study, to be released in the April issue of Nature magazine, indicates the same results could happen in humans. The researchers say their discovery “may provide a new therapeutic platform for the immune-based therapy of __________ disease”.

 

 

mixing
allergic
tested
cells
compound

Allergies happen because our __________ systems mistake cat allergens, or other allergens such as pollen, for germs; our bodies __________ by releasing the chemical histamine, which causes rashes, swelling, sneezing, itchy eyes and other __________. An estimated ten per cent of people are allergic to cats. If the human-cat protein is successful in clinical trials on humans, cures for other allergies could quickly follow, bringing __________ to millions. It could end the __________ for hay fever sufferers and may prevent people who are allergic to peanuts from dying. However, prescription or over-the-counter medicines are still many years away.
 

relief
symptoms
misery
immune
react

2. TRUE/FALSE:  Students check their answers to the T/F exercise.

3. SYNONYMS:  Students check their answers to the synonyms exercise.

4. PHRASE MATCH:  Students check their answers to the phrase match exercise.

5. QUESTIONS: Students make notes for questions they would like to ask the class about the article.

6. VOCABULARY:  Students circle any words they do not understand. In groups, pool unknown words and use dictionaries to find the meanings.


 
 

POST READING IDEAS

1. GAP-FILL: Check the answers to the gap-fill exercise.

2. QUESTIONS:  Students ask the discussion questions they thought of above to their partner / group / class. Pool the questions for all students to share.

3. VOCABULARY: As a class, go over the vocabulary students circled above.

4. STUDENT-GENERATED SURVEY: Pairs/Groups write down 3 questions based on the article. Conduct their surveys alone. Report back to partners to compare answers. Report to other groups / the whole class.

5. ‘CHEMICAL’ / ‘COMPOUND’: Students make questions based on their findings from pre-reading activity #1.

6. DISCUSSION:

  1. What was interesting in this article?
  2. Were you surprised by anything in this article?
  3. Do you have any allergies?
  4. Do you know anyone who is allergic to something?
  5. Do you like cats?
  6. What new drug / medicine would you like scientists to create?
  7. Is it OK to test allergies on mice?
  8. Will scientists find a cure for all allergies?
  9. Do a lot of people in your country suffer from hay fever?
  10. What tree / plant causes hay fever in your country?
  11. Is it possible to be allergic to other people?
  12. What would life be like to be allergic to modern technology?
  13. Do you like to sneeze?
  14. How often do you take medicine?
  15. What provides you with instant relief from daily pressures?
  16. Did you like this discussion?
  17. Teacher / Student additional questions.

HOMEWORK

1. VOCABULARY EXTENSION: Choose several of the words from the text. Use a dictionary or Google’s search field (or another search engine) to build up more associations / collocations of each word.

2. INTERNET: Search the Internet and find information on hay fever. Share your findings with your class next lesson.

3. NEW ALLERGY: Write a short news article on a newly discovered allergy (you’ll probably have to make one up).

4. ALLERGY DIARY: Write a one-day diary entry for an allergy sufferer. The allergy may be real or invented.

ANSWERS

TRUE / FALSE:

  1. Scientists have discovered a drug for cats who are allergic to humans.  F
  2. A new half-cat, half-human chemical compound has been made.  T
  3. The new compound means mice will no longer be afraid of cats.  F
  4. The discovery may provide new ways of treating allergies.  T
  5. Allergies happen when our bodies mistake allergens, such as pollen, for germs.  T
  6. Symptoms of allergies include swelling, rashes, sneezing and itchy eyes.  T
  7. Two per cent of people are allergic to cats.  F
  8. Over-the-counter cat allergy medicines will be available later this year.  F

SYNONYM MATCH:

(a)

compound

composite / mixture

(b)

suffer

experience

(c)

fusion

mixture

(d)

indicates

suggests

(e)

platform

base

(f)

mistake

confuse

(g)

react

respond

(h)

symptoms

manifestations

(i)

clinical

laboratory

(j)

misery

suffering

PHRASE MATCH:

(a)

successfully

tested

(b)

bring instant

relief

(c)

human

cells

(d)

the same results could

happen in humans

(e)

therapy of allergic

disease

(f)

our immune

systems

(g)

our bodies react

by releasing the chemical histamine

(h)

An estimated

ten per cent of people

(i)

clinical

trials

(j)

It could end

the misery for hay fever sufferers

GAP FILL:

New molecule blocks cat allergy

Scientists have successfully tested a new chemical compound that could bring instant relief to those who suffer from cat allergies. Researchers from the UCLA School of Medicine designed and tested a “chimeric human-cat fusion protein”, or, a laboratory-created chemical made by mixing proteins from cats and humans. The result blocked the cat allergy in mice and in human cells. The study, to be released in the April issue of Nature magazine, indicates the same results could happen in humans. The researchers say their discovery “may provide a new therapeutic platform for the immune-based therapy of allergic disease”.

Allergies happen because our immune systems mistake cat allergens, or other allergens such as pollen, for germs; our bodies react by releasing the chemical histamine, which causes rashes, swelling, sneezing, itchy eyes and other symptoms. An estimated ten per cent of people are allergic to cats. If the human-cat protein is successful in clinical trials on humans, cures for other allergies could quickly follow, bringing relief to millions. It could end the misery for hay fever sufferers and may prevent people who are allergic to peanuts from dying. However, prescription or over-the-counter medicines are still many years away.

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