Using nanoparticles to detect peanut allergies, predict severity

By Liz Meszaros, MDLinx
Published June 30, 2017

Key Takeaways

A newly designed nanoparticle-based platform may more accurately detect the presence and severity of peanut allergies, obviating the need for direct allergen exposure, according to a new study published in Scientific Reports.

Chemical and biomolecular engineers at the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, have teamed up to design nanoparticles mimicking natural allergens by displaying each allergic component one at a time on their surfaces. These nanoparticles have been named “nanoallergens,” and researchers used them to assess the severity of allergic responses using serum antibodies from allergic patients.

“The goal of this study was to show how nanoallergen technology could be used to provide a clearer and more accurate assessment of the severity of an allergic condition,” said Basea Bilgicer, associate professor, chemical and biomolecular engineering, and member of the Advanced Diagnostics and Therapeutics initiative at Notre Dame. “We are currently working with allergy specialist clinicians for further testing and verification of the diagnostic tool using a larger patient population. Ultimately, our vision is to take this technology and make it available to all people who suffer from food allergies.”

Bilgicer and colleagues found that a full 8% of children under age 4 have a food allergy. Current methods include oral food challenges and skin prick testing. But they carry risks—including anaphylactic shock, and fail to identify the severity of the patients’ allergic responses, as skin prick testing does.

“Most of the time, parents of children with food allergies are not inclined to have their child go through such excruciating experiences of a food challenge,” said Bilgicer. “Rather than investigate the severity of the allergy, they respond to it with most extreme caution and complete avoidance of the allergen. Meanwhile, there are cases where the skin prick test might have yielded a positive result for a child, and yet the child can consume a handful of the allergen and demonstrate no signs of any allergic response.”

After demonstrating the efficacy of their new platform using peanut allergens, Bilgicer and colleagues are now preparing to test the platform on additional allergens and allergic conditions.

This study was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, along with private donations.

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