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 allergen exposure and the lack of effective treatments, preventive and therapeutic strategies are urgently needed, Zhou says.
In the laboratory, Zhou and his colleagues took a food protein that causes allergies in mice and modified it by adding special sugars. They hypothesized that, when ingested by the mice, the modified proteins would be able to bind to what are known as the SIGNR1 receptors on the immune system cells. Bound in this way, the immune system would learn to tolerate the modified food protein — and the protein would no longer induce an allergic reaction, even when consumed in its unmodified form.
Zhou fed his mice the modified protein once a day for three days. Five days later, he tested them by feeding them the protein in its unmodified form. Another group of mice was not fed the modified protein at all. The severity of the allergic response to the unmodified protein — which in the control-group mice tended to be tremors, convulsions and/or death — was significantly decreased in those mice that had been pre-fed the modified protein. Some still had minor reactions like itchiness or puffiness around the eyes and snout, but none had serious ones. These mice appeared to be desensitized to the food protein, even when it was fed to them in its unmodified form, says Zhou. In this model, SIGNR1 plays a key role in shutting off some responses in the immune cells, but whether this is the only function of this receptor is, at present, unknown.
Other Johns Hopkins researchers on the study include Hirokazu Kawasaki, Shih-Chang Hsu, Reiko T. Lee, Xu Yao, Beverly Plunkett, Jinrong Fu and Yuan C. Lee.
Stephanie Desmon | EurekAlert!
A Map of the Cell’s Power Station
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
21.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences
21.08.2017 | Health and Medicine
21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences