October 21, 2011
Food allergies can cause some of the most severe physical reactions around. People with peanut allergies, for example, need only come in contact with a minute amount of the nuts to have a potentially life-threatening episode.
But are scientists figuring out how to prevent that?
Maybe -- in mice. Researchers at Northwestern University found a way to essentially trick the immune systems of mice into accepting substances like peanut proteins, lessening or even halting allergic reactions.
The process involves wrapping a protein of the desired substance in a white blood cell and inserting it into the body. The body reacts to allergens because it doesn't recognize them and, therefore, perceives them as pathogens and attacks. If the allergen is combined with something the body is familiar with, the body no longer sees it as a threat, preventing a reaction. This will allow the body to reset its perception of the protein, also preventing a reaction when a lone protein enters the body because it has previously been deemed safe.
The real question is can these findings be applied to humans? An article from MSNBC says that the technology is in early clinical trial stages with autoimmune diseases (like multiple sclerosis), which function in much the same way as allergies. If those trials are successful, scientists believe that it's only a matter of time before we can change the lives of food allergy sufferers.
Natalie Moya | ChaCha Health + Lifestyle