There is no known cure for food allergies with sufferers forced to constantly check the ingredients on food packaging and make enquiries at restaurants before digging into a meal. Even taking such precautions it is almost impossible to avoid all food allergen exposure, especially with children. With even minor exposure having the potential to cause severe or even life threatening reactions in some people, the discovery of a way to turn off the immune system’s allergic reaction to certain proteins in mice, could have implications for the millions of food allergy sufferers worldwide.
Allergic reactions to food occur when the immune system misidentifies an otherwise innocuous food protein as harmful, and then attacks the protein with a ferocity far greater than required. Last year we reported that a team at Duke University discovered it was possible for some people allergic to peanuts to build up a tolerance by slowly giving them higher and higher doses of peanut flour in their food each day. While promising, for this method to remain effective the subjects had to keep a daily dose of peanuts in their diets to maintain the tolerance.
Now a research team at Johns Hopkins University has discovered that one kind of immune cell in the gastrointestinal tract called lamina propria dendritic cells (LPDC), which are 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.
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