Research on Milk Allergens Could Benefit Greater Food Allergy Problem

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Researchers from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne report having developed a fast and accurate method for determining exactly which milk proteins produce allergic reactions in specific patients.

Researchers from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne report having developed a fast and accurate method for determining exactly which milk proteins produce allergic reactions in specific patients.

The same technique, they said should work for other common allergens, in their study published in Analytical Chemistry. The new technique could increase the speed and efficacy of therapies designed to prevent life-threatening reactions such as anaphylaxis.

Work for the Swiss team began by looking at what had been a long-established fact: When people with milk allergies drink milk, their bodies respond by producing IgE antibodies.

Looking for more specific information the team used a technique called immunoaffinity capillary electrophoresis to further examine each patient’s antibodies for information about their specific allergens.

To isolate the patient’s IgE, researchers put blood samples inside extremely narrow glass capillaries and added magnetic beads coated in a second antibody meant to bind with the IgE.

The researchers next flushed the beads out of the tube, used a crosslinking technique to strengthen the bond between the beads and IgE and returned the bound particles to clean capillaries before milk was injected into the capillaries. IgE was observed to bind to whichever specific milk protein or proteins caused each individual’s allergies while allowing the rest of the milk proteins and the rest of the milk to pass through the container.

Researchers were then able to remove the bead, IgE and allergen clumps and chemically wash them to break them into their component parts. A mass spectrometer was then used to identify the “culprit” proteins that each patient’s IgE had pulled from the milk.

Team leader Hubert Girault said the technique takes less time, uses cheaper materials, requires less manpower and produces far more specific results than any test that’s commonly used right now.

The new technique should also work equally well for a wide range of allergens that trigger the production of IgE.

Such widespread efficacy in detecting the source of IgE, a known antibody that can cause anaphylaxis should be good news for people at risk of suffering from the potentially deadly condition.

If patients are tested using the new technology for allergic reactions to milk, the test could show which specific allergens they are affected by. Using this information doctors could prescribe different courses of care to provide the most effective treatment possible. Each could receive exposure therapy designed around a different protein. Patients could receive a slightly different list of foods to avoid as well as a customized list with all dangerous foods but no needless restrictions.

Food allergies have become more common in the developed world for several decades, and the rise has been particularly sharp in recent years. According to a study released in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of food allergies among children rose 50% between 1997 and 2011. Roughly 15 million Americans now suffer some sort of food allergy, though only a small percentage of them will suffer severe reactions like anaphylaxis.

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