Demonstrating clinical food allergy is a double-edged sword; on the one hand, the least risky approach, using skin testing results and specific IgE levels, is allergen-specific, but problematic for sensitivity assessment. On the other, oral food challenge is very sensitive, but is high risk for the subject and has a significant utilization burden.
Research out of MIT, led by J. Christopher Love, PhD, and his team, might hold the solution. Love and his colleagues have produced a microarray chip capable of assessing cytokine production from single leukocytes. The chip is covered in subnanoliter microwells, and is capable of quantitative measure of cytokine secretion by a single cell activated by antigen using a process called microengraving. The chip has much greater sensitivity to the numbers and intensities of responses by stimulated immune cells and can detect up to 4 different cytokines secreted by a single activated cell. Their research is presented in the journal Lab on a Chip.
So how does this help food allergy diagnosis? Love and his team are collaborating with the Children’s Hospital in Boston to correlate cytokine production with allergic response in children receiving oral immunotherapy for milk allergy. In addition, the chip will be used to characterize cytokine production during the desensitization period.
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