Navigation Links
MIT researchers develop better way to detect food allergies
Date:5/21/2010

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- About 30 percent of Americans believe they have food allergies. However, the actual number is far smaller, closer to 5 percent, according to a recent study commissioned by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). That's due in large part to the unreliability of the skin test that doctors commonly use to test for food allergies.

MIT chemical engineer Christopher Love believes he has a better way to diagnose such allergies. His new technology, described in the June 7 issue of the journal Lab on a Chip, can analyze individual immune cells taken from patients, allowing for precise measurement of the cells' response to allergens such as milk and peanuts.

Using this technology, doctors could one day diagnose food allergies with a simple blood test that would be faster and more reliable than current tests, says Love, an assistant professor of chemical engineering. "With a large number of diagnoses, it's ambiguous," he says. "A lot of times it's almost circumstantial whether you're allergic to one thing or another."

The NIAID study, published May 12 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that in the United States, 6 to 8 percent of children under four, and 4 percent of people five or older, have at least one food allergy. Milk, peanuts, eggs and soy are among the most common allergens.

Food allergies occur when the body's immune system mistakes a protein in food for something harmful. This triggers an allergic response that can include rashes, hives, difficulty breathing or gastrointestinal distress. Some allergies can provoke life-threatening anaphylactic shock, which requires immediate treatment.

Patients suspected of having food allergies usually undergo a skin test, which involves placing small quantities of potential allergens under the skin of the patient's arm. If the patient's blood has antibodies specific to that allergen, immune cells will release histamines that cause itching and redness in the spot where the allergen was placed.

Doctors can also perform blood tests that directly measure the presence of particular antibodies in the patients' blood. However, one drawback to both of these tests is that the presence of antibodies to a particular allergen does not necessarily mean that the patient is allergic to that substance, leading to false positive results.

Love's new technology, developed with funding from the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, the Dana Foundation and the NIAID, takes a different approach. Instead of detecting antibodies, his system screens the patient's immune cells for small proteins known as cytokines. Immune cells such as T cells produce cytokines when an allergic response is initiated, attracting other cells to join in the response.

To perform the test, blood must be drawn from the patient, and white blood cells (which include T cells) are isolated from the sample.

The cells are exposed to a potential allergen and then placed into about 100,000 individual wells arranged in a lattice pattern on a soft rubber surface. Using a technique known as microengraving, the researchers make "prints" of the cytokines produced by each cell onto the surface of a glass slide. The amount of cytokine secreted by each individual cell can be precisely measured. For food-allergy testing, the cytokines of most interest are IL4, IL5 and IL9.

The "gold standard" for diagnosing a food allergy is to see what happens when the patient is given the food in question (in a controlled setting, to ensure safety), but that is not often done outside of allergy research clinics, says Assa'ad.

Love is now working with Dale Umetsu, professor of pediatric immunology at Children's Hospital Boston, on a project they hope will pinpoint the relationship between cytokine activity and allergic reactions. In that study, children with milk allergies are being given small amounts of milk to desensitize their immune systems to the milk. Using the new technology, the team is tracking how the responses of the patients' cells change as the patients undergo treatment.


'/>"/>

Contact: Jennifer Hirsch
jfhirsch@mit.edu
617-253-1682
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

Related medicine news :

1. Crohn's & Colitis Foundation National Event Helping Women Manage Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Two Women Physician Experts and Researchers in IBD on Interactive Webcast/Teleconference
2. Mayo Clinic researchers find gene they believe is key to kidney cancer
3. Researchers get $3.3 million grant to investigate language outcomes of bilingual children
4. Mayo Clinic researchers find genetic secrets to common kidney cancer
5. System that predicts protein structures could help researchers design drugs
6. Australian researchers identify a new disease
7. Researchers define traits associated with prescription drug disorders in a primary care setting
8. Researchers demonstrate that safe cigarettes are as hazardous as tobacco
9. Level of frailty predicts surgical outcomes in older patients, Johns Hopkins researchers find
10. Researchers discover new way to rescue treatment sensitivity of breast cancer cells
11. Mild-mannered metabolic helper rushes to fight invading viruses, researchers report
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/10/2016)... Calif. (PRWEB) , ... February 10, 2016 , ... ... Water Brand. There were three leading bottled water brand owners that topped the list ... that enhance connectivity and optimize conversion. The premier brand was Tibet 5100, a top ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... ... ... Dr. Jessica Barron, of Barron Family Dental in Thornton, Colorado , ... in the North Metro Denver area. The new dental practice focuses on comfort where ... in the most relaxing environment. , While some dental visits can create anxiety for ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... ... February 10, 2016 , ... Intalere’s ... together more than 200 of the country’s top healthcare executives to share insights ... true benefit of the Forum is the provider-centric perspective, experience, expertise and strategy ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... ... February 10, 2016 , ... Gout is like no other joint ... is often severe, with intense swelling and redness. It is triggered by the crystallization ... older adults are the most susceptible, according to the February 2016 issue of Harvard ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... February 10, 2016 , ... Armune ... Apifiny® across their network of laboratory service centers across the country. Launched in ... aid clinicians in the detection of prostate cancer. Apifiny order volume exceeded 3,000 tests ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:2/10/2016)... DIEGO , Feb. 10, 2016 ALSP, Inc. ... , MD as Consultant for Medical Affairs in preparation for ... Michael Pierschbacher , PhD, CEO, stated, "We are pleased ... We look forward to working with an individual of such ... We look forward to drawing deeply on his broad experience ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... , Feb. 10, 2016 Intouch Solutions, a ... identified an industry-wide trend regarding the evolution of ... organizations to efficiently deliver compelling sales presentations via ... and another in 2015, Intouch uncovered that while ... devices and DSAs, many are not using them ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... HALLANDALE, Fla. , Feb. 9, 2016  Until ... sagging were surgery or liposuction. Thankfully, the FDA approved ... freezing them to death. Coolsculpting was originally approved in ... to the thighs and now the chin. With this ... Wellness Center can use a smaller applicator, the CoolMini, ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: