Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) has announced that it is providing over $700,000 to help fund promising research that may lead to a fast, effective treatment for food allergies.
Fred Finkelman, MD, an immunologist at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine/Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center have developed a monoclonal antibody that targets and deactivates mast cells, which play a key role in allergic reactions. As FARE describes:
Special receptors on the surface of mast cells allow them to bind to IgE, the “bad” antibody responsible for food allergy. When a person with food allergy eats the wrong food, the IgE-primed mast cells attack the allergen, releasing chemicals that cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction. The monoclonal antibody removes both the IgE and IgE receptors on mast cells, making them harmless.
Finkelman’s team aims to develop a therapy that would rapidly desensitize a patient to food allergens, possibly within 24 hours. They are currently working with mice with the goal of adapting their approach to humans over the next several years.
I don’t understand how this would work. Mast cells must serve some basic biologic function and permanently eliminating them will likely lead to unintended consequences.