Boffins have identified a key molecule Interleukin-12 (IL-12),that may provide resistance against food allergy.
During a food allergy the immune system responds to a food protein as if it was harmful. The immune system produces immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies, which normally help the body fight parasites. In the most severe cases individuals can suffer life-threatening reactions, including anaphylactic shock.
The study was conducted by a team of researchers led by Dr Claudio Nicoletti at the Institute of Food Research in Norwich, in collaboration with the University of Siena.
Earlier studies have shown that special types of white blood cells called dendritic cells help the immune system to decide on how to respond to foreign molecules.
As part of this study, researchers compared the activity of dendritic cells in the gut and in the spleen of allergic and allergy resistant mice.
Researchers found that the dendritic cells stopped producing IL-12 in the gut of susceptible mice.
"We have identified a molecule that is very important for the regulation of immune response and for the first time clearly represents a potential target for the therapy of allergy. This is currently under investigation", Dr Nicoletti said.
The findings of the study were published online in the July issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.