A novel system has been developed by Researchers to detect and identify the presence and severity of peanut allergies more accurately, without openly exposing patients to the allergen. This new study was published in the Scientific Reports journal.
Credit: University of Notre Dame
A team of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineers at the
University of Notre Dame created nanoparticles that imitate natural allergens by exhibiting each allergic component one at a time on their surfaces. The Researchers christened the nanoparticles “nanoallergens” and used them to dissect the vital components of key peanut allergy proteins and assess the potency of the allergic response using the antibodies present in a blood sample from a patient.
The goal of this study was to show how nanoallergen technology could be used to provide a clearer and more accurate assessment of the severity of an allergic condition. We are currently working with allergy specialist clinicians for further testing and verification of the diagnostic tool using a larger patient population. Ultimately, our vision is to take this technology and make it available to all people who suffer from food allergies.
Basar Bilgicer, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and a member of the Advanced Diagnostics and Therapeutics initiative, Notre Dame
Food allergies are increasing in developing countries, causing anxiety in particular to parents. According to the research, 8% of children under the age of four have a food allergy. Bilgicer said there is a requirement for more accurate testing, better diagnostics and enhanced treatment options.
Existing food allergy testing techniques carry risks or fail to provide comprehensive information on the severity of the allergic response. For example, a test well-known as the oral food challenge requires exposing a patient to increasing quantities of a suspected allergen. Patients must be kept under close observation in clinics with well-trained specialists. The test is stopped only when the patient displays a severe allergic response, such as anaphylactic shock. Doctors then treat the reaction with antihistamines, epinephrine injections and steroids.
Another common diagnostic tool, the skin prick test, can show whether a patient is allergic to a particular food. However, it does not provide details on the severity of those allergies.
During skin prick testing, doctors deposit a drop of liquid comprising of the allergen on the patient’s skin, usually on their back, and then scratch the skin to expose the patient. Skin irritations, such as itching, redness, and white bumps, are signs that the patient has an allergy.
Most of the time, parents of children with food allergies are not inclined to have their child go through such excruciating experiences of a food challenge. Rather than investigate the severity of the allergy, they respond to it with most extreme caution and complete avoidance of the allergen. Meanwhile, there are cases where the skin prick test might have yielded a positive result for a child, and yet the child can consume a handful of the allergen and demonstrate no signs of any allergic response.
Bilgicer , A ssociate P rofessor of C hemical and Biomolecular E ngineering and a member of the Advanced Diagnostics and Therapeutics initiative, Notre Dame
While the research concentrated on peanut allergens, Bilgicer said he and his team are involved in testing the system on other allergens and allergic conditions.
The research was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Health, along with private donations.