A new effort is underway aimed at accelerating research into food allergy to enable the development of new diagnostics and treatments. Researchers from the Broad Institute of the MIT and Harvard as well as those from the Yale University of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Massachusetts General Hospital have launched the Food Allergy Science Initiative (FASI).
The initiative will coordinate efforts from a variety of disciplines including immunology, gastroenterology, computational biology, molecular biology, and bioengineering, all in search of answers to fundamental questions regarding food allergy. Areas of research include:
- Cellular landscape of the gut: How do epithelial cells in the gut sense food allergens, and how do those cells then communicate with the immune system?
- Mechanisms of allergen sensing: How does the body determine how to react to different food components, and how does it determine whether those components are healthy and harmful? How do these sensing mechanisms then communicate with the immune system, triggering allergic response? Can these mechanisms be ‘reprogrammed’ to avoid hyper-sensitive reactions to food allergens?
- Immune response to allergens: How do allergens activate the immune response? What kinds of immune responses are triggered by food allergens, and what are the normal functions of these responses? How can these responses be suppressed or modified?
- Microbiota and its role in food allergy: What is the role of microbiota in food sensitivity and allergy? Are there specific elements of the microbiome that may promote or prevent food allergy and can microbiota be harnessed to reverse the condition?
- Clinical and translational projects: Can the make-up of the immune system’s cellular ecosystem inform diagnosis and prognosis of food allergy? Are there changes in the microbiome during infancy and early in life that influence risk for food allergy? Can we identify biomarkers that could aid in diagnosis or treatment?
FASI has been funded with a $10 million commitment from a number of individual donors and foundations.
Our hope is that the coordination and funding this initiative brings will help to greatly accelerate research, treatments, and a cure.