Can we manipulate the immune response to foods to treat or cure food allergy?

Pre-Clinical Studies

We have developed a mouse model of oral immunotherapy (OIT) for egg-induced anaphylaxis, and similar to results in humans, we have shown that OIT can desensitize mice but cannot induce permanent tolerance to egg. We hypothesize that the immune milieu of the gastrointestinal tract in food allergy has been changed, such that tolerance becomes much more difficult to generate through the oral route. We are taking the two approaches outlined below to try to improve immunotherapy to lead to permanent tolerance.

  • Induction of Immune Tolerance through Epicutaneous Immunotherapy (EPIT)
    We hypothesize that delivery of antigen distal from the gastrointestinal tract could promote the development of tolerance. In collaboration with DBV Technologies, we are delivering antigen to the skin through a unique patch-like device (Viaskin). We are studying how EPIT compares to OIT in a mouse model of food-induced anaphylaxis, and identifying mechanisms of tolerance induction.

  • Allergen-adjuvant Fusion Proteins for Immunotherapy
    We hypothesize that immunotherapy with allergens alone are insufficient to change the nature of the immune response to the allergen, and that additional immunomodulatory factors are necessary for the development. To achieve this goal, we have developed novel allergen-adjuvant fusion proteins in algal-based expression systems, and are working to apply these as innovative therapeutics for the treatment of food allergy.

Human Studies

In association with colleagues at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute and the Consortium of Food Allergy Research (CoFAR), we are using samples from patients enrolled in immunotherapy trials to understand the immunologic basis of allergy and tolerance to foods. Using peripheral blood samples, we are profiling the antigen-specific immune response in patients. Our goal is to identify a molecular signature of food allergy, and to identify pathways that are involved in the development of tolerance to foods after allergen immunotherapy. By studying how some patients achieve tolerance, our aim is to use that knowledge to help those who are resistant to the development of immune tolerance.

Contact Us

M. Cecilia Berin, PhD
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
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