New research from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine suggests that we might one day be able to trick our bodies out of a food allergy.
Researchers attempted to create peanut tolerance in otherwise peanut-allergic mice by attaching the source of the allergy, peanut proteins, onto the blood cells of mice.
In an allergic person, the body would normally recognize these proteins as invading pathogens and trigger a potentially deadly immune response called anaphylaxis in which the throat can swell and close up.
When the peanut protein was introduced into the body attached to one of the body’s own cells, however, the immune system learned to not attack these cells and the mice became temporarily “cured” of their peanut allergy.
Researchers say these findings could have future implications for treating food allergies in humans, although at this stage the method has only been tested in rodent models.
A cure for food allergies in humans is not close at hand, cautions Dr. Clifford Basset, medical director at Allergy and Asthma Care of New York.
“Bottom line: There is no cure for food allergies, at least in 2011, and in the foreseeable future. Its all about education, prevention and preparedness,” says Basset.