Genetic Biomarker Could Predict Food Allergy Reactions

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The presence of the TPSAB1 gene could help clinicians identify increased food allergies.

A genetic biomarker could help predict the severity of food allergies in children that are high risk for life-threatening reactions, according to a study conducted from researchers from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. In the study, researchers found that an enzyme isoform called α-tryptase is connected by the TPSAB1 gene and is associated with an increased risk of anaphylaxis.

A press release noted that α-tryptase is commonly found in mast cells that are white blood cells that are a part of the immune system. Activation of the mast cells occurs during an allergic reaction.

“Determining whether or not a patient with food allergies has α-tryptase can easily be done in clinical practice using a commercially available test to perform genetic sequencing from cheek swabs,” said Abigail Lang, MD, MSc, attending physician and researcher at Lurie Children’s and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and lead author, in a press release. “If the biomarker is detected, this may help us understand that the child is at a higher risk for a severe reaction or anaphylaxis from their food allergy and should use their epinephrine auto-injector if exposed to the allergen. Our findings also open the door to developing an entirely new treatment strategy for food allergies that would target or block α-tryptase. This is an exciting first step and more research is needed.”

The study included a total of 238 individuals—199 that were involved in TPSAB1 genotyping, 82 from an observational food allergy cohort from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, and 37 from a cohort that had a reaction to the peanut oral food challenge at Lurie Children’s.

The results could help define and address high risk of allergy reactions, providing more information for the individual and their families.

“We need to validate our preliminary findings in a much larger study, but these initial results are promising,” said Lang, in a press release. “We also still need a better understanding of why and how α-tryptase makes food allergy reactions more severe in order to pursue this avenue for potential treatment.”

Reference

Genetic biomarker may predict severity of food allergy. EurekAlert!. News release. September 20, 2023. Accessed November 9, 2023. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/1002203.

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