Stories about: Dale Umetsu

A potential breakthrough for peanut allergy treatment

Peanut allergies are among the most rapidly growing food allergies in the United States. Millions of children are currently living with the condition, with new cases being diagnosed daily. (A recent study shows the number of reported peanut allergies tripled in just over a decade.) And because allergic reactions to peanuts tend to be the most severe—80 to 95 percent of all food allergy deaths are peanut or tree nut related—the trend is a serious cause for concern.

But a small pilot study published by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, may offer hope for the hundred of thousands of families living with the condition. Conducted by researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital’s Division of Allergy and Immunology and Harvard Medical School, the new study shows that by combining a powerful anti-allergy medication and a methodical desensitization process, Boston Children’s researchers may be on their way to creating the next best thing to a cure for peanut allergy.

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100 years of allergy treatment

Immunology celebrates its 100th birthday this month

Written by Joshua Feblowitz

One hundred years ago, a British scientist by the name of Leonard Noon attempted to treat hay fever by injecting patients with of small amounts of grass pollen. Inspired by successful vaccines for diseases like smallpox, Noon hoped to cure patients of their allergy by helping them build up an “active immunity” to the pollen.

In his laboratory at St. Mary’s Hospital in London, Noon carefully prepared “pollen extracts” to test his theory. To study patients’ reactions to pollen, he sprinkled the extract directly into their eyes – undoubtedly a very unpleasant experience, as anyone with seasonal allergies can imagine. Finally, he injected patients with the extract over several weeks in increasing amounts, successfully reducing their sensitivity to the pollen.

Noon’s 1911 study represents the first successful example of allergen immunotherapy, a treatment that involves gradually exposing an allergic person to an allergen to coax their immune system into tolerating the substance. Although Noon never uses the word “allergy” in his original paper – at the time the term was just 4 years old—his discovery marked the beginning of a new era for allergy research and treatment. Today, allergen immunotherapy continues to be employed by innovative researchers around the world, including right here at Children’s Hospital Boston.

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Nasuti family and Children's researcher featured in Globe article on food allergies

BrettdrinkingmilkBrett Nasuti, the 12-year-old Children’s patient who last year became the first person in the country to take part in a milk allergy desensitization study, is featured in a Boston Globe article today about the rise in food allergies – and why doctors and researchers are so flummoxed by it.

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