People who suffer from peanut allergies have new hope: A study shows it is possible to cure food allergies by fooling the immune system.
Paul Bryce, an assistant professor of medicine at the Northwestern Univeristy Feinberg School of Medine, which conducted the study, said food allergies arise because certain proteins falsely are interpreted by the body as pathogens.
"Allergies to peanuts and other foods occur when the immune system goes wrong," Bryce said. "We've been trying to understand how the immune sytem tells the difference between what it should and should not respond to."
According the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 15,000 to 30,000 episodes of food-related anaphylaxis are reported every year, for which no reliable threapy exists.
Tricking the immune system in thinking certain proteins are safe is the key, Bryce said.
Researchers discovered that they could block the allergic reaction by taking a bit of preanut protein, wrapping a white-blood cell around it, and then injecting the altered cell into an allergic mouse's body. When the immune system spots the protein inside a white-blood cell, it designates the protein as safe.
It works in mine, but will it work humans? There is reason to think it will.
"There ae many differences between immune responses in mice and humans," Bryce said. "There are also many similarities."
Similar methods have been met with human success in suppressing autoimmune disease, including rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, he noted.
The study was published in the Journal of Immunology.