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Johns Hopkins researchers turn off severe food allergies in mice
Date:10/1/2010

Johns Hopkins Medicine

Johns Hopkins scientists have discovered a way to turn off the immune system's allergic reaction to certain food proteins in mice, a discovery that could have implications for the millions of people who suffer severe reactions to foods, such as peanuts and milk.

The findings, published online in the journal Nature Medicine, provide hope that the body could be trained to tolerate food allergies that lead to roughly 300,000 emergency room visits and 100 to 200 deaths each year.

The research team, led by Shau-Ku Huang, Ph.D., a professor of medicine, and Yufeng Zhou, M.D., Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, discovered that one kind of immune cell in the gastrointestinal tract called lamina propria dendritic cells (LPDC) considered the first line of defense for a body's immune system expresses a special receptor, SIGNR1, which appears on the cells' surface and binds to specific sugars.

By targeting this receptor using sugar-modified protein, researchers were able to keep food proteins that would have induced a severe, even deadly, allergic reaction from causing any serious harm.

"There is no cure for food allergies, and the primary treatment is avoidance of the offending protein," Zhou says. "This could teach our bodies to create a new immune response and we would no longer be allergic to the protein."

The researchers hope to confirm whether this promising process in mice can also occur in people.

Food allergies are triggered by the immune system and, in some people, can cause severe symptoms or even a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis. In the United States, it is estimated that six to eight percent of children under the age of three and nearly four percent of adults have food allergies, and the prevalence is rising. Because of the extreme difficulty in avoiding all food all
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Contact: Stephanie Desmon
sdesmon1@jhmi.edu
410-955-8665
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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