Ongoing allergy and immunology research
Our food allergy program is an international leader in researching food allergy treatment, food allergy quality of life and best practices for the prevention, diagnosis and management of food allergy. Our team members are also active in food allergy healthcare policy and regularly serve as authors on practice management guidelines.
We collaborate with the top centers around the world to help research the latest food allergy treatments, which aim to desensitize allergic children so that they can tolerate up to 1 gram (a few kernels) of peanut, about the size of an accidental bite of something. This transformative research is part of an FDA fast-tracked effort to accelerate the development and approval of new food allergy therapies.
Our groundbreaking drug allergy program seeks to understand the most efficient way to diagnose drug allergy. With a focus on penicillin allergy, our team is investigating which children are low-risk and unlikely to benefit from penicillin allergy testing.
We conduct investigator-initiated and federal grant-funded studies, as well as donor and other sponsor-funded clinical trials for investigational treatments. We have a variety of ongoing allergy research studies including:
- Epicutaneous immunotherapy for the treatment of milk allergy
- Determining tradeoffs among health benefits, adverse events and resource use associated with food allergy treatment
- Understanding the outcomes of oral food challenges
- Understanding the effects of oral food challenges on food allergy quality of life
- Understanding maternal and early life influences, particularly nutritional factors, on the development of allergic diseases
Epicutaneous peanut allergy immunotherapy vs. placebo
Despite the severity and relative prevalence of peanut allergy, no approved treatments exist. In this peanut allergy trial, our researchers assessed the efficacy and adverse events of peanut allergy immunotherapy through a peanut patch among peanut-allergic children. They found that daily treatment with a peanut patch containing 250 micrograms of peanut protein resulted in a 21.7% difference between the percentage of participants reaching the pre-specified dose at which reaction was provoked compared to the placebo group at 12 months. While this difference was statistically significant, it did not meet the pre-specified lower bound of the confidence interval to obtain a positive trial result. (No thresholds as to the significance of using this lower boundary as a measure of clinical significance have been set to help guide food allergy immunotherapy.) Adverse events were common but consisted mostly of local skin reactions. Adherence to the peanut patch was high at 98.5%. The authors argue that the effectiveness, adverse events and adherence of epicutaneous therapy must be weighed against alternative types of peanut allergy trials, such as oral immunotherapy.
Read our article “Effect of Epicutaneous Immunotherapy vs. Placebo on Reaction to Peanut Protein Ingestion Among Children with Peanut Allergy”
IL2RB mutation and T and NK cell-driven immune dysregulation
Researchers are increasingly recognizing that the onset of autoimmunity in infants signals the development of primary immunodeficiency disorders. Interleukin-2 (IL-2) is an immunoregulatory cytokine that is essential for regulation of immune responses and maintenance of immune tolerance. The IL-2 receptor (IL-2R) is made up of α (IL-2R α), β (IL-2Rβ) and γ (IL-2R γ) chains. Defects in IL-2Rα and IL-2Rγ and their downstream signaling effectors cause known primary immunodeficiency disorders.
Researchers from the Allergy and Immunology Center, Digestive Health Institute and Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, in collaboration with researchers from other institutions, report on the first human defect in IL-2Rβ. Researchers discovered the homozygous IL2RB mutation in two infant siblings that manifested as multisystem autoimmunity and susceptibility to CMV infection. The IL2RB mutation reveals previously unappreciated insights into IL-2/15 signaling and NK cell biology.
Read our article “A novel human IL2RB mutation results in T and NK cell-driven immune dysregulation”
What our allergy and immunology research means for kids
Our research aims to be practical, yet cutting edge, while maintaining a focus on helping our patients and their families. We want to help prevent and treat allergies, but also maximize the quality of our patients' and families' lives while they live with food allergy.