Why are some people with food allergies more prone to severe reactions than others? A new study suggests that the cause may be a cell type that was previously unknown to researchers.
The study reported the discovery of “IL-9-producing mucosal mast cells” or (MMC9 cells) in mice, which produce an inflammatory immune protein called interlukin 9 (IL-9) that’s already known to amplify the severity of anaphylaxis in response to an ingested allergen.
The discovery holds promise for the future development of a test for anayphylaxis risk, says researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. About one in 13 American children have an IgE-mediated food allergy. Currently, anyone with such an allergy has to be considered at risk for a severe reaction, since there has been no way to measure who will or won’t be susceptible to anaphylaxis.
The researchers further say their findings, based on tests with both mice and human tissue, could lead to treatments to reduce anaphylaxis likelihood in those found to be at risk.
“Our study suggests that although you need to have some level of IgE to trigger a food allergy response, you also have to produce MMC9 cells to get a severe response and anaphylaxis,” says Yui-Hsi Wang, lead investigator and a PhD researcher in the division of allergy and immunology at Cincinnati Children’s. “Without these cells, you will not get severe food allergies.”
The research is in its early stages, however, and the mechanisms still need to be observed in human immune systems. “Unfortunately the best medical intervention for these allergies remains avoiding the foods that cause them,” he said.