November 18, 2019

New findings: How food allergens reach the immune cells to cause allergic reactions

 Scientists at the Mary H. Weiser Food Allergy Center, along with colleagues at other institutions, have determined which type of cells in the small intestine allow food allergens to reach the immune cells, in turn affecting respiratory, cardiovascular and other organs.

For part of the study, common allergens such as milk and eggs that had been engineered to glow under microscopy were given to mice to track the allergen movement. The researchers observed that in food-allergic mice, many more cells of the lining passed the allergens and elicited food allergic symptoms. 

Food allergic symptoms were prevented when the allergen passing across the lining was blocked.

The researchers also demonstrated in humanized mice that food allergens passed across the lining of human gastrointestinal tissue similar to what they saw in mice. This study indicates the molecular processes of food allergen movement across the gastrointestinal lining observed in mice exist in humans and may similarly be involved in eliciting food allergic symptoms in humans.

“This was a great multi-institutional team effort,” said Simon Hogan, MD, the Askwith Research Professor of Food Allergy at the MHWFAC.  Taeko Noah, PhD, a Michigan Medicine research investigator and recpient of an MHWFAC M-FARA pilot grant, was first author on the study.  Hogan and MHWFAC Scientific Director Nicholas W. Lukacs, PhD,  also contributed.

The peer-reviewed study results and methodology were published in October in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.  Other scientists participating in the research are based at Washington University, Tel aviv University and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Read the full journal article here.