Scientists have found a way to turn off peanut allergies by tricking the immune systems in mice, which they believe can potentially be the human cure.
The problem develops when the body detects a foreign particle as an invasive and triggers an immune response. In the case of nuts, the human body triggers an extreme reaction, called anaphylaxis. According to the National Institutes of Health, there are about 15,000 to 30,000 reported cases anaphylaxis episodes annually in the U.S., resulting in 100 to 200 deaths.
“We think we’ve found a way to safely and rapidly turn off the allergic response to food allergies,” Dr. Paul J. Bryce, assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, said in a written statement. Bryce and his colleague, Dr. Stephen D. Miller, described their research.
The experiment to turn off peanut allergies were used in a special breed of mice. The scientists attached the proteins to blood cells called leukocytes and reintroduced them into the mice’s bodies. This allowed the T-cells to building up tolerance to the proteins, which alleviated the future immune response when presented with the nuts.
“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.”
In a second phase of the study, the researchers successfully desensitized mice to egg proteins. Bryce said he thinks the approach can be used to target multiple food groups at one time. The latest study to turn off peanut allergies was published in the Journal of Immunology.