Food allergies could be eliminated with a new Immunotherapy Technique

Published By Amelia Paten, 23 Jul 2019

Food allergies could be eliminated with a new Immunotherapy Technique

With a new immunotherapy technique being tested in Canada, the allergic response to peanuts and egg white proteins could be eliminated. The new technique was tested on food-allergic mice, and only one treatment reduced their anaphylactic response by up to 90%.

Prof. John Gordon, lead scientist of the discovery, observed that food allergies were reversed in mice. Because of this success, several people also volunteered their own cells to be tested in the lab. The discovery was published in the latest version of the Allergy and Clinical Immunology journal.

With the new findings, there is now the opportunity to test this allergy treatment in “humanized mice”. These mice have no immune systems, and are implanted with human immune system cells. For this specific test, the cells of a peanut-allergic human would be inserted into the mice. Gordon also added that they are planning to carry out the first human trial within one year after gaining approval from Health Canada.

Based on present estimates, nearly 2.5 million people in Canada have at least one allergy.

With the new discovery, the researchers plan to generate a naturally occurring immune cell which will send a signal to the immune system to reverse the response to the ongoing reaction. It can be considered to be the “off-switch” that stops allergic reactions.

As per Gordon’s estimates, the treatment might be available for commercial usage within the next five to ten years. He is also a research leader in the AllerGen (Allergy, Genes and Environment) Network. AllerGen is part of the Networks of Centers of Excellence program that is funded federally, with the intent to assist Canadians in addressing the difficulties faced due to anaphylaxis, asthma, allergies and other diseases in the immune system.

The AllerGen team will work along with Gordon’s team in McGill University, Queen’s University, McMaster University and University of Alberta so that faster progress can be made.

If the research is successful, this will be a major breakthrough in the field of therapeutic reversal of food allergen sensitivity.

Early findings show a positive effect when used on humans. Gordon’s team was successful in demonstrating that they could reverse asthmatic responses in human cells in a test tube back in 2010. A similar therapy was again used in 2012 for a study, in which scientists were able to eliminate asthma in mice within a span of eight weeks.

Gordon states that even if only 25% of people benefit from this, healthcare expenses will go down significantly while improving the overall health of individual.

The Technique

·         Dendritic cells, the gate-keepers of our immune systems, serve as the key factor of this research. They are present in tissues that come in contact with the external environment – like the skin, and the inner linings of the intestines, stomach, lungs and nose.

·         The dendritic cells are produced in a test tube and then exposed to a unique blend of proteins, Vitamin A-related acids found in the human gut, and the allergen (such as ovalbumin or peanut).

·         Once the dendritic cells are modified, they are introduced once again into the mouse’s system.

·         With this technique, the expected allergic reaction was nearly eliminated by the researchers.

·         The allergen-sensitive immune cells were able to respond exactly like healthy, non-allergic cells.

When this treatment was carried out, the symptoms of anaphylaxis was reduced, and other key protein markers in the allergic response were lowered by a mind-blowing 90%.

As of now, food allergy continues to be a rising issue across the globe, and there is no concrete cure. With the new research, even autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis can be treated with very little adaptation of the therapy.