About 50 million Americans have allergies. According to the 2014 National Health Survey, approximately 10 percent of children have hay fever, 12 percent have skin allergies, and 5 percent have food allergies. And yet, until now, allergy treatments haven’t changed much in years.
Fortunately, scientists who study the immune system have recently started to understand exactly how allergies develop. Using that knowledge they are beginning their work on new allergy treatments that intend to stop allergies altogether, instead of just treating their symptoms.
One of the approaching therapies sprung from Nestlé’s $145 million investment in a startup called Aimmune that focuses on eliminating peanut allergies. They are working on creating a peanut desensitization pill, AR101, that will slowly wean patients off the allergy. The company came upon this idea after they identified the peanut proteins that cause allergic reactions. They are filling the pills with those exact proteins with the goal of having patients immune to the substance. Patients would start with a tiny dose and overtime they would work their way towards taking the same dose that one peanut contains.
Photo (cc) Daniella Segura
The company website states:
“We believe that the level of desensitization potentially provided by AR101 will decrease the likelihood that a patient will suffer a severe allergic reaction. In addition, we believe that successful treatment with AR101 may result in less severe allergic reactions if a patient is exposed to larger amounts of peanut protein. Our hope is that these results would increase the quality of life of peanut allergy patients and their families.”
Although it’s a simple invention, the pill is currently still going through clinical trials and is predicted to be a game-changer.
Other investments have been made with the plan of working towards similar goals as Aimmune. A donation of $24 million to set up an allergy research center at Stanford University has led the researchers at Stanford to branch out further on the idea of desensitization. The Broad Institute of Cambridge, Mass. is also beginning research on the science behind food allergies.