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Study: Allergies might be 'turned off'

Oct. 1, 2010 at 8:22 PM   |   Comments

BALTIMORE, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they've discovered a way to turn off the immune system's allergic reaction to food proteins in mice, which could have human applications.

The findings by scientists at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine provide hope the human body could be trained to tolerate allergies to foods like peanuts and milk suffered by millions, a university release said.

Researchers found one kind of immune cell in the gastrointestinal tract, considered the first line of defense for a body's immune system, expresses a special receptor that appears on the cell's surface and binds to specific sugars.

By targeting this receptor using sugar-modified protein, researchers were able to keep food proteins that would have induced a severe, even deadly, allergic reaction from causing any serious harm.

"There is no cure for food allergies, and the primary treatment is avoidance of the offending protein," Yufeng Zhou, a postdoctoral fellow in the university's Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, says. "This could teach our bodies to create a new immune response and we would no longer be allergic to the protein."

The researchers hope to confirm whether this process in mice can also occur in people.

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