Researchers who are working to find a way to treat food allergies have their sights on the next target – desensitization through the skin.
Dr. Hugh Sampson, head of the Consortium of Food Allergy Research in the United States, told Allergic Living magazine that U.S. researchers got the idea from French research, in which scientists have developed immunotherapy patches for cow’s milk allergy.
Those researchers placed a milk-containing patch on dairy-allergic patients every other day for three months. The results were that the patients were able to consume, on average, 12 times more milk without a reaction than they could before the treatment.
Armed with this encouraging research, a company formed by the French researchers is now set to begin a safety trial on a comparable peanut patch. If the safety trial is successfully completed, Sampson and the researchers in CoFAR hope to begin the next level of clinical trials: to see if the patch works to desensitize patients allergic to peanut.
Sampson, who is the director of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine, says it’s unclear why placing an allergen on the skin could lead to an allergic person being able to consume the food in question without reaction. But he says a variety of research done with mice shows that you can both sensitize, and desensitize, through the skin. Part of the work his group will undertake will be to discover more about the immunologic factors at play.
One promising aspect of desensitization through the skin, compared to other methods such as oral immunotherapy (in which patients eat gradually increasing amounts of their allergen) is that so far, reactions have been limited to the area where the patch is applied, and have not affected other systems of the body. However, the French study was done on a small group of patients.
Sampson hopes to begin his trial mid 2011.
From the Fall 2010 issue of Allergic Living magazine.