By Kristen Chandler
Research shows that children who have food allergies have a lower frequency of regulatory T cells (also called Tregs) than those who have food sensitivities or no food allergies at all.
What exactly are T cells? T cells moderate the immune system and help prevent autoimmune diseases. They are crucial in developing oral tolerance. Scientists suspected that malfunctional T cells could result in food allergies. Prior to their study, no research had been done on the responses of T cells after being exposed to egg or peanut allergens; therefore, that was the objective of this study.
The study, published in November of 2015 in the Journal of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, was led by Dr. Thahn D. Dang of Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia. The research team monitored 37 children who had an egg or peanut allergy, 35 children who had an egg or peanut sensitivity, and 15 children with no food allergies. The patients participated in an oral food challenge. Researchers monitored their peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) one hour after the challenge. The researchers also analyzed the T cells on days 0, two and six after the challenge.
The results of the study revealed there was no change in the T cells of patients who did not have food allergies. However, the T cells of patients with food sensitives started off at 6.8 percent on day 0 but decreased to 5.27 percent on day 2. By day 6, they had returned to 6.5 percent. The T cells of patients with food allergies started at 6.85 percent on day 0 and dropped to 5.4 percent by day 2. On day 6, the T cells had increased back up to 6.2 percent. The researchers noticed that while the decrease was slightly lower in food allergic patients than those with food sensitivities, the starting ratio of T cells was lower for patients with food allergies than those with food sensitivities or without food allergies.
Dr. Dang concluded that the data did show that allergy sensitization affects the decrease of T cells after the exposure to allergens and that the body’s inability to regenerate T cells after exposure to allergens could be a factor in determining whether someone has a true food allergy as opposed to a food sensitivity.
While these results may not sound like much, they do help scientists and researchers better understand the origins of food allergies and sensitivities. This just brings us another piece closer to solving the puzzle that is food allergies.
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