Spring 2017 Food Allergy Research Roundup

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Researchers around the world continue to work tirelessly to determine the cause of food allergies in hopes of developing a viable treatment. Here’s the latest information published in the first quarter of 2017.

Lifelong Allergic Mechanisms Attributed to Memory B Cells

In a research study spearheaded by the McMaster Immunology Research Centre, scientists investigated the mechanisms that cause food allergies to be lifelong. Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is produced by the immune system in response to an allergen. According to the study authors, the lifelong nature of food allergies has “conventionally been attributed to long-lived IgE+ plasma cells,” but no thorough research has been conducted to back up this speculation.

The researchers studied the immune system of mice throughout their 18- to 20-month lifespan in order to pinpoint the root cause of lifelong allergen responses. They found that the long-lived IgE+ plasma cells are not directly responsible for the lifelong immune response. Instead, long-lived memory B cells, which help the body to quickly and efficiently respond to a repeated invasion by pathogens, transfer the allergen-specific reactive response to the IgE+ plasma cells.

By understanding the precise mechanism behind lifelong allergic reactions, scientists could be one step closer to developing therapeutic treatments for food allergies.

Vitamin D Insufficiency Not Related to Food Allergies

Sometimes scientists make progress not by finding out what works, but by finding out what doesn’t work. And thanks to a team of Australian researchers, we now know that vitamin D insufficiency is not related to food allergies. The scientists studied the vitamin D levels of infants at birth, 6 months and 1 year. By 1 year of age, 7.7 percent of the infants had a food allergy, and there was no substantial evidence that those with low vitamin D levels were more prone to develop a food allergy.

The Spleen’s Role in Food Allergy Responses Revealed

According to a study published in International Immunology, the spleen plays a vital role in producing mast cells, a type of white blood cell that is produced in an immune system response. The mast cells cause diarrhea in response to an allergen (ovalbumin, derived from egg whites, was used in the study). The researchers found that if they removed the spleen from mice and reintroduced them to the allergen, diarrhea was drastically reduced. If the researchers then injected mast cells into the splenectomized mice, the diarrhea returned. This confirmed the correlation between the spleen, mast cells and allergic diarrhea.

For food allergy sufferers, this research could pave the way for more targeted research efforts in hopes of developing a treatment or cure.