INDIANAPOLIS—Researchers from Indiana University School of Medicine have found a way to block anaphylaxis caused by peanut allergies. The groundbreaking discovery could lead to life-saving therapeutics for people with severe peanut allergies.
“There are treatments for symptoms in patients with food allergies, but few preventive therapies other than strict dietary avoidance or oral immunotherapy,” said Mark Kaplan, PhD, chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and senior author of the study. “Neither of those options is successful in all patients.”
The team details their findings in a newly published article in Science Translational Medicine. When someone is allergic to a food, it is a result of allergen proteins cross-linking allergen specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) on the surface of mast cells and basophils. Activation of these cells can lead to anaphylaxis, a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur very quickly after exposure to an allergen.
Researchers developed peanut-specific inhibitors called covalent heterobivalent inhibitor (cHBI), that successfully blocked mast cell or basophil degranulation and anaphylaxis in an animal model.
“The inhibitor prevented allergic reactions for more than two weeks when given before allergen exposure,” said Nada Alakhras, lead author and a graduate student in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. “The inhibitor also prevented fatal anaphylaxis and attenuated allergic reactions when given soon after the onset of symptoms.”
“These new findings suggest that cHBI has the potential to be an effective preventative for peanut-specific allergic responses in patients,” said Basar Bilgicer, PhD, professor of chemical and biomedical engineering at the University of Notre Dame and co-senior author of the study.
The inhibitor has not been tested in human patients yet. Researchers are now doing further testing in animal models to evaluate efficacy and toxicity before moving to clinical trials.
The research was funded in part by the Falk Medical Research Trust Award. Other authors include Anthony L. Sinn, Wenwu Zhang, PhD, MS, and Karen E. Pollok, PhD from IU School of Medicine as well as Gyoyeon Hwang, Jenna Sjoerdsma, Emily K. Bromley, and Jaeho Shin from the University of Notre Dame and Scott A. Smith, MD, PhD from Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
IU School of Medicine is the largest medical school in the U.S. and is annually ranked among the top medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The school offers high-quality medical education, access to leading medical research and rich campus life in nine Indiana cities, including rural and urban locations consistently recognized for livability.