Food Scientist Develops Way to Reduce Food Allergies

May 10, 2010 - News Release

A University of Guelph food scientist has discovered a way to help children build a tolerance to food allergies.

Prof. Yoshinori Mine found that mice predisposed to an egg allergy became desensitized to the allergen after repeatedly ingesting only a portion of the protein known to trigger the allergic reaction.

“By ingesting only the peptides and not the whole protein, the body suppresses the urge to react,” said Mine. “After repeated exposure, the body learns to accept the protein instead of trying to defend itself against it. This approach has huge promise for humans for providing a safer more convenient approach to dealing with allergies in children.”

The food scientist's research was featured in Monday's National Post.

Six to eight per cent of children in North America have some type of food allergy, with the most common being milk, eggs and nuts.

“Food allergies are a serious concern for parents, and it’s something that is difficult for them to manage,” he said. “Currently, doctors tell the parents to remove these foods from their child’s diet, but removing foods like eggs and milk can be nearly impossible. I wanted to find another solution.”

Children are more susceptible to developing allergies because their gut immune system is still developing and cannot digest certain proteins, said Mine.

Because these proteins aren’t digested, they move immediately into the bloodstream due to children’s immature gut barrier system. Sometimes the body will react to these proteins as foreign and initiate its defence system, which results in an allergic reaction.

About 50 per cent of children with a food allergy will outgrow it by the time they are five, but for some reason, the other 50 per cent are unable to develop a tolerance on their own, he adds.

“No one has been able to explain why some children don’t outgrow the allergic response. This research is aimed at helping them develop tolerance.”

In his study, recently published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy, Mine uses a mouse model he developed that has an allergy to eggs.

Just like humans, these mice react with allergy symptoms ranging from a rash to death from anaphylaxis when fed eggs.

As part of the study, he fed the mice multiple peptides of the egg protein that spurs allergic reactions. After six weeks, he had the mice ingest the whole protein, which is what a child would ingest when eating eggs.

Mine then monitored the mice for visible signs of an allergic reaction and also took blood and tissue samples to test the animals’ levels of histamine and immunoglobulin E - substances produced by the body to induce allergic reactions.

Results showed that 80 per cent of the mice did not react and the other 20 per cent experienced only a mild allergic reaction.

“When ingested, the multiple peptides help stimulate the body to make T-suppressor lymphocytes specific for allergen suppression. These lymphocytes retrain the body not to react to allergic substances.”

The next steps are to introduce this technique in human clinical trials and develop a way the peptide can be administered orally, said Mine.

“I would like to find a way to incorporate the peptide into foods such as cookies so it will be appealing to young children.”

He also plans to develop this approach so it can be applied to peanut, milk and other food allergies.

Prof. Yoshinori Mine
Department of Food Science
519-824-4120, Ext. 52901

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982 or

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