Scientists at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center believe they have found a new cell type that could help explain severe allergic reactions. It could also lead to new therapies for food allergies and other allergic reactions.
The research was published in the journal Immunity last week. In laboratory mice with allergies to certain types of foods, a specific cell type was found to be common no matter the allergy. It also appears to be a part of the triggering mechanism for the immune antibody known as immunoglobulin E (IgE) associated with severe allergic reactions.
IL-9-producing mucosal mast cells (MMC9 cells) has been named the newly-discovered culprit.
The cells produce a large amount of interlukin 9 (IL-9), which amplifies the affects of anaphylactic shock in response to ingested foods. Until now, researchers were unsure of the source of IL-9 and are now convinced it's MMC9 that is the primary creator of it.
"Our study suggests that although you need to have some level of IgE to trigger a food allergy responds," writes lead author Yui-Hsi Wang, PhD, "you also have to produce MMC9 cells to get a sever response and anaphylaxis."
Currently, research says that about 40 percent of children have food sensitivities associated with IgE. Only about 8 percent of those develop severe reactions. Wang and colleagues believe that MMC9 cells could explain that smaller group's difference.
"Unfortunately the best medical intervention for these allergies remains avoiding the foods that cause them," he said. "We don't know why some patients develop such a strong response and why some don't. This is where we as basic scientists are coming in to see if we can use mouse models to learn this, because mice are very much like humans."
Research by Wang and others is now focused on the connections that create MMC9 in humans. This could lead to a blood test for allergies as well as possible treatments.