Paul Bryce and Stephen Miller of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine said they turned off a life-threatening allergic response to peanuts by tricking the immune system into thinking the nut proteins aren't a threat to the body.
The system creates a more normal, balanced immune system by increasing the number of regulatory T cells -- immune cells important for recognizing the peanut proteins as normal, the researchers said.
"T cells come in different 'flavors,'" Bryce said in a statement. "This method turns off the dangerous Th2 T cell that causes the allergy and expands the good, calming regulatory T cells. We are supposed to be able to eat peanuts. We've restored this tolerance to the immune system."
Using a mouse model that mimics a life-threatening peanut allergy, which the Northwestern team developed several years ago, researchers attached peanut proteins onto white blood cells called leukocytes and infused those back into the mice, Bryce and Miller said.
The study, published in the Journal of Immunology, found after two treatments, the mice were fed a peanut extract -- they did not have the life-threatening allergic reaction because their immune system now recognized the protein as safe.
"We think we've found a way to safely and rapidly turn off the allergic response to food allergies," Bryce said.