Although food allergies are common, sufferers often don't know exactly what in foods cause their allergic reactions. This knowledge could help develop customized therapies, like training the body's immune system to respond to certain proteins found in foods. However, determining which protein in a food causes an allergic response to a patient requires time-consuming tests that often ignore rare or unexpected allergens. Publishing in Analytical Chemistry, EPFL scientists have developed a highly-sensitive method that can quickly and accurately identify the culprit proteins even at very low concentrations. The method has been successfully tested in the context of cow milk allergy.
Food allergies are becoming widespread in the Western world today, affecting around 6-8% of children and about 3% of adults. These types of allergies occur when the body's immune system mistakes a harmless food protein for a threat and attacks it as it would normally do with a bacterium or a virus. This causes symptoms like swelling, rashes, pain, and even life-threatening anaphylactic shocks.
Cow milk allergy is common among children, preventing them from breast feeding and drinking milk, although some outgrow the allergy by six years of age. Allergies, including food allergies, are caused when our immune system produces antibodies to destroy "enemy" molecules, like those from bacteria and viruses. In the case of milk allergies, the antibodies are called "IgE". Medical doctors can diagnose milk allergies by simply detecting an overproduction of IgE, but that does not tell them which one of the numerous proteins in milk and other foods is causing the allergic response.
The team of Hubert Girault at EPFL has developed a highly-sensitive method that uses a patient's IgE to determine specifically which protein induces allergic responses in them. The method uses a well-established technique called immunoaffinity capillary electrophoresis (IACE). First, I
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Ecole Polytechnique Fdrale de Lausanne