BRI's Innovative Work in Food Allergy Research
“The breadth of research from the laboratory, translated into clinical treatment and back to the laboratory is really all under ‘one roof’ here,” says Jerry Nepom, MD, PhD, “forming a dynamic collaboration to find the best treatments for people with allergic disease.”
BRI scientists are studying the immune response in the children from the Learning Early about Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study. The study, published in February of 2015, received a lot of scientific and media attention because of its dramatic success in preventing peanut allergies. It found that introducing peanut protein into an infant’s diet beginning between 4-11 months of age greatly reduced the subsequent development of peanut allergies measured when the kids were 5 years old. The LEAP study was designed and conducted by the Immune Tolerance Network, which is led by BRI.
BRI’s current research into the immune response from the LEAP study is utilizing novel profiling tools developed by Drs. Erik Wambre, Bill Kwok, and Peter Linsley. “Our studies will analyze the molecular and cellular mechanisms that explain the difference between an allergic and a non-allergic immune response to peanut,” explains Erik Wambre, PhD, BRI assistant member. These studies also are designed to identify children who may benefit from similar therapies in the future.
Food allergy research at BRI, led by William Kwok, PhD, and Dr. Wambre, is an exciting addition to BRI’s other allergy research projects involving inhalant allergens such as grass pollen and mold allergies. Performed in collaboration with Virginia Mason physicians Mary Farrington, David Robinson and David Jeong, BRI’s investigators are taking a new approach to improve allergy vaccine therapy. They are using tetramers to identify the small pieces of allergen molecules that may initiate a beneficial immune response capable of blocking allergy; by monitoring patients with these tetramers and related techniques, safer and better approaches to therapy are envisioned. “The work currently being done at BRI will continue to shed light on the fundamental immune processes involved in the development of immune tolerance,” adds Mary Farrington, MD, BRI clinical researcher and Virginia Mason allergist.