Canadian researchers have developed a new immunotherapy technique that has the potential to eliminate the allergic response to peanut and egg white proteins. Anaphylaxis, defined as a severe rapid-onset allergic reaction, can be life-threatening and treatment options are limited.
Using the new technique, the researchers were able to nearly eliminate the allergic reaction in mice by converting allergen-sensitive immune cells into cells that mimic the response seen in healthy, non-allergic individuals.
The treatment reduced the symptoms of anaphylaxis, and lowered other key protein markers in the allergic response by up to 90 per cent, the researchers observed. “The treatment prevents anaphylactic responses in what were previously fully sensitive mice, opening the door for translating this therapy into the clinic,” said Judah Denburg, Professor at McGill University in Quebec, Canada.
Further, the study also showed promise for treating autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis. “If we can reliably ‘cure’ food allergies, or related conditions such as asthma or autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis with this new therapy, it would be life-changing for affected individuals,” said John Gordon, Professor at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.
“This discovery reverses food allergies in mice, and many people with allergies volunteering their own cells for us to use in lab testing to move this research forward,” Gordon added.
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The pioneering treatment involves producing dendritic cells in a test tube. Dendritic cells serve as the gate-keepers of the immune system and are present in tissues in contact with the external environment, such as the skin and the inner lining of the nose, lungs, stomach and intestines.
These are then exposed to a unique mix of proteins, a vitamin A-related acid naturally occurring in the human gut, and to the allergen, in this case, peanut or ovalbumin (egg white protein). The modified dendritic cells are then reintroduced into the mouse.
The findings were published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.