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Scope 49 - Getting to the guts of food allergy

2 November 2012

Through the development of novel experimental models our scientists have been able to reveal for the first time, the earliest cellular and molecular events involvedin allergic sensitisation in the gut.

In Scope 46 we reported how Dr Elizabeth Forbes-Blom and Prof Graham Le Gros had used these models to make the startling discovery that under some circumstances, exposure of the skin to peanuts can lead to the development of peanut specific allergic immune
responses. Their work also highlighted the importance of concomitant Staph infections in amplifying this process in individuals with eczema.

In related research, Prof Le Gros’ PhD student Marcus Robinson has been working with Dr Ali Hodgkinson from AgResearch to understand why milk is an allergen. Cow’s milk is one of the most common causes of food allergy in infants, affecting one in 50 children. The ultimate goal of Marcus’ work is to define the factors that contribute to milk allergy and apply this knowledge to the development of an allergy friendly infant formula.

When Marcus first started this project, very little was known about the complex interactions between the gut and the host immune system. By dissecting apart the various cytokines and cell types involved, Marcus has built up an extensive picture of the many factors that contribute to the allergic disease process in the gut. He has also made significant progress into understanding how the immune system in the gut responds to milk and what components of milk contribute to the development of allergy. This work is currently being prepared for publication.


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