Johns Hopkins Logo Quite a few individuals are allergic to a particular foodstuff like peanuts, milk etc. Well this piece of information can probably benefit such people. Johns Hopkins experts claim to have identified a way of turning off the immune system’s allergic reaction to certain food proteins in mice. The research findings can possibly aid in training body to tolerate food allergies.

It was found that a kind of immune cell in the gastrointestinal tract called lamina propria dendritic cells (LPDC) expresses a special receptor, SIGNR1. While LPDC is considered the first line of defense for a body’s immune system, SIGNR1 may appear on cells’ surface and bind to certain sugars. SIGNR1 seems to use sugar-modified protein, so targeting this receptor can help avoid food proteins capable of resulting in a severe or deadly allergic reaction causing any serious harm. The findings may be applicable in humans too. Food allergies possibly occur due to the immune system and can lead to severe symptoms or even a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. Since all food allergen exposure cannot be avoided, appropriate treatments, preventive and therapeutic strategies can be introduced.

Yufeng Zhou, M.D., Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, quoted, “There is no cure for food allergies, and the primary treatment is avoidance of the offending protein. This could teach our bodies to create a new immune response and we would no longer be allergic to the protein.”

During the research, investigators took a food protein known to cause allergies in mice and modified it by adding special sugars. It was expected that when ingested by mice, the modified proteins would bind with SIGNR1 receptors on the immune system cells. Then immune system would tolerate modified food protein and the protein would no longer induce an allergic reaction, even when consumed in its unmodified form. Mice were fed with the modified protein once a day for three days. After five days the mice were made to eat protein in its unmodified form.

Another group of mice were not made to consume the modified protein at all. Consequences of allergic response to unmodified protein were monitored by the researchers. It was noted that in the control-group mice tended to face tremors, convulsions and/or death. Significant reduction of allergic reaction appeared in mice pre-fed the modified protein. However, some mice developed minor reactions like itchiness or puffiness around the eyes and snout, but none were serious. These mice were probably desensitized to the food protein even when fed on unmodified form of protein. Though SIGNR1 seems to be a hallmark in shutting off some responses in immune cells other possible functions of the receptor are unknown at present.

The research is published online in the journal Nature Medicine.