Researchers in a new preclinical study for Northwestern Medicine have tricked the immune system. They have figured out how to turn off a life threatening allergic response to peanuts (nut proteins). The investigators used mice (that were bred to mimic one with severe food allergies) and attached peanut proteins to leucocytes and reintroduced them into the mice’s bodies. What happened next? The mice ingested a peanut extract and did not have an allergic reaction.
In a second phase of the study, the researchers successfully desensitized mice to egg proteins. The Northwestern researchers used the same tactic with an egg protein. They attached the proteins to white blood cells and infused the cells back into the mice. The mice then inhaled the asthma-provoking egg protein and their lungs did not become inflamed. Dr. Paul J. Bryce, Department of Microbiology-Immunology, Feinberg School of Medicine,noted that it appears that this approach can be used to target multiple food allergies at one time.
Each year there are between 15,000 and 30,000 episodes of food-induced anaphylaxis and 100 to 200 related deaths in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. This study may be the link regulating allergic diseases. To quote Dr. Stephen D Miller, the Judy Gugenheim Research Professor at the Feinberg School: “This is an exciting new way in which we can regulate specific allergic diseases and may eventually be used in a clinical setting for patients.”
If this were successful in clinical settings, what would it look like? People with food allergies would not have to worry everyday about coming in contact with the allergen causing food. Also, it would mean that people would be able to enjoy the “allergen causing foods” without risk!