BBC News:Food allergy molecule discovered

Posted on: Mon, 07/02/2007 - 1:06am
Nutternomore's picture
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[url="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6254576.stm"]http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6254576.stm[/url]

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[b]Food allergy molecule discovered[/b]

[i]A molecule which may protect against food allergy has been identified.[/i]

Interleukin-12 has been shown to be "missing" in mice which were bred to be allergic to peanuts.

The results published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggest that the molecule normally stops allergies to food developing.

The Institute of Food Research scientists said the findings offered a potential target for the prevention or treatment of food allergies.

In people who suffer from a food allergy, the immune system responds to a food protein as if it was harmful by producing antibodies.

"We have identified the missing molecule that normally keeps immune responses under control and appropriate."
Dr Claudio Nicoletti, study leader

In the most severe cases individuals can suffer life-threatening reactions, including anaphylactic shock.

One of the most well-known food allergies is to peanuts. This problem is becoming increasingly common, affecting one in 70 schoolchildren.

There is currently no way to treat food allergy and the only way for sufferers to manage the problem is to avoid certain foods and make sure they have injectable adrenaline at hand.

Over-stimulation

Dr Claudio Nicoletti and colleagues had already done research which showed that special types of white blood cells called dendritic cells are important in helping the immune system decide on how to respond to foreign molecules.

They found that in allergic mice the dendritic cells are much longer lasting than normal, which over-stimulates the immune system.

In the latest study, he compared the activity of dendritic cells in the gut and in the spleen of allergic and allergy-resistant mice.

He found that in the gut of susceptible mice, dendritic cells have stopped producing interleukin-12.

Dr Nicoletti said delivering an allergen, such as peanut, alongside the interleukin-12 molecule. may help to bring allergic reactions back under control.

He is doing a further study to test this theory in mice.

"A food protein can be perfectly harmless to one person and lethal to another," he said.

"We have identified the missing molecule that normally keeps immune responses under control and appropriate."

Dr Nicoletti is also working with researchers in Ireland to identify whether similar characteristics can be found in human dendritic cells.

Preliminary findings suggest the dendritic cells in individuals with a food allergy are also longer lasting.

David Reading, director of the Anaphylaxis Campaign, said: "Food allergy can place an extremely heavy burden on the families affected.

"We welcome this research and look forward to further developments."

Posted on: Mon, 07/02/2007 - 3:02am
April in KC's picture
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Joined: 08/28/2006 - 09:00

Absolutely fascinating; thanks for posting.
So IL-12 is missing in mice who were bred to be allergic.
On Wikipedia article about Interleukin-12, one section mentions this NEGATIVE effect of IL-12 on autoimmune conditions (also note the interesting reference to IL-12 knockout mice):
[begin quote]
IL-12 and autoimmunity
IL-12 is linked with autoimmunity. Administration of IL-12 to people suffering from autoimmune diseases was shown to worsen the autoimmune phenomena. This is believed to be due to its key role in induction of Th1 immune responses. In contrast, IL-12 gene knock-out in mice or a treatment of mice with IL-12 specific antibodies ameliorated the disease.
[end quote]
I wonder what the relationship between IL-12, autoimmunity and allergy will prove to be? If they "fix" IL-12 in susceptible individuals, will it possibly worsen other autoimmune conditions? I hope scientists figure this out.
Nate has PA and Celiac. The Celiac is definitely genetically linked. It would be interesting if it turned out that allergy was a compensating response to underlying autoimmune conditions, or vice versa. Not saying it is or isn't - but I have wondered about the relationship. There are some others here with autoimmunity in their families.
April
[This message has been edited by April in KC (edited July 02, 2007).]

Posted on: Mon, 07/02/2007 - 5:02am
BBCBMom's picture
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Joined: 01/16/2007 - 09:00

Thanks for posting. Very interesting.

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