January 13, 2009

New mouse model found for allergy

Researchers in Chicago say they have developed a new way to get mice to mimic symptoms of humans having an allergic reaction to peanuts.

Peanut allergies affect many people, particularly young children, so finding an animal model that mimics a severe reaction will help scientists develop better treatment strategies, said Paul Bryce, who led the mouse model team at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University.

For reasons not clearly understood, the prevalence of food allergies in children increased by 18 percent between 1997 and 2007, with the most common allergies linked to milk, eggs, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat and soy, Bryce said.

Mice are not normally allergic to peanuts so Bryce's team fed mice a mix of whole peanut extract and a toxin from the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus to simulate an allergic reaction.

The results were considerably more effective than those seen with previous animal models, which failed to mimic many features of food allergy, the University said in a release Tuesday.