Researchers Turn off Peanut Allergy In Mice
October 12, 2011

Researchers Turn Off Peanut Allergy In Mice

According to a new preclinical study, researchers have turned off peanut allergy by tricking the immune system.

Researchers attached peanut proteins onto blood cells and reintroduced them to the body.  This method could one day be able to target more than one food allergy at a time.

"We think we've found a way to safely and rapidly turn off the allergic response to food allergies," Paul Bryce, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of allergy-immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a press release.

This is the first time this method for creating tolerance in the immune system has been used in allergic diseases.

The approach also helps create a normal, balanced immune system by increasing the number of regulatory T cells.  These cells are important for recognizing the peanut proteins as normal.

"T cells come in different 'flavors'," Bryce said. "This method turns off the dangerous Th2 T cell that causes the allergy and expands the good, calming regulatory T cells. We are supposed to be able to eat peanuts. We've restored this tolerance to the immune system."

The team attached peanut proteins onto white blood cells of mice and infused them back into the rodents.

After two treatments, the mice were fed a peanut extract and did not show any life-threatening allergic reaction to it because their immune system now recognized the protein as safe.

"Their immune system saw the peanut protein as perfectly normal because it was already presented on the white blood cells," Bryce said. "Without the treatment, these animals would have gone into anaphylactic shock."

The researchers used an egg protein in a second part of the study.  They attached the proteins to white blood cells and infused the cells back into the mice, just like the peanut proteins.

The mice were then given a taste of egg, and their lungs did not become inflamed, which is a reaction most suffer from an egg allergy.

"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," Stephen Miller, the Judy Gugenheim Research Professor at the Feinberg School, said in a press release.

The study was published in the Journal of Immunology.


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