Foods that are harmless to most people may trigger anaphylaxis—a sudden, life-threatening reaction—in sensitized (or allergic) individuals. DrS Manel Jordana and Susan Waserman, AllerGen investigators and professors at McMaster University, are trying to find out what causes the body’s immune system to respond inappropriately to certain foods.
In a review paper, published in a May 2018 special issue of International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Drs Jordana and Waserman help us to understand the underlying biology of how individuals initially acquire a food allergy.
AllerGen trainees Yosef Ellenbogen (MD candidate), Dr. Rodrigo Jiménez-Saiz (Research Associate Academic), Paul Spill (MD candidate) and Dr. Derek Chu (MD, PhD) were co-authors on the publication.
The paper discusses the processes and signals involved in the induction of T helper type 2 (Th2) cells, which orchestrate allergic diseases against foods.
“We have proposed that neither inherent food allergenicity nor individual genetics play major roles in causing food allergy,” says Dr. Jordana.
“Rather, it is the combination of external and internal triggers, and converging pathways that lead to Th2 sensitization.”
“Beyond biology, social practices such as the abuse of antibiotics in infancy; misguided recommendations regarding the delayed introduction of foods (notably peanut) into the diet of infants; manufacturing processes that enhance food allergenicity; or the consumption of foods from contaminated crops all likely play a role,” he adds. “Arguably, the development of food allergies is the result of an infrequent ‘perfect storm.’”
Dr. Jordana is a Professor of Pathology and Molecular Medicine at McMaster University.
Dr. Waserman is a Professor of Medicine I the Division of Clinical Immunology & Allergy at McMaster University.