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Allergy tests may help prevention

Tuesday May 25th, 2010

Researchers say they are developing powerful new tests for allergies, enabling earlier and more precise detection, it has been announced.

In Australia, scientists have announced a "simple" blood test that will identify whether new-born babies face a high risk of developing allergies.

Scientists say they have pinned down a protein that appears in the immune cells of new-born babies. Low levels mean a baby is at risk of developing allergies.

And fish oil treatments increase levels - suggesting a possible way of preventing allergies.

The protein, protein kinase C zeta, was discovered three years ago and the Australian researchers say this has now enabled them to develop a blood test.

Australia has massively high rates of allergy and 40 per cent of children show some symptoms.

Researcher Professor Tony Ferrante, of the University of Adelaide, said: "A protein in the immune cells of newborns appears to hold the answer as to whether a baby will either be protected, or susceptible to the development of allergies later on.

"There is evidence that the levels of this important protein increase with fish oil supplementation to protect against allergy development."

Meanwhile in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, researchers say they have an improved test that could help identify food allergy.

Chemical engineer Christopher Love, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says his technique will analyse individual immune cells.

His technique identifies the immune cells, cytokines, that trigger allergic responses, picking out three cytokines called IL4, IL5 and IL9, responsible for the problem.

Reporting in the journal Lab on a Chip, he says the next stage is to work with allergy specialists to pin down more detail of how cytokines react to individual foods.

Tags: Allergies & Asthma | Australia | Child Health | Diet & Food | North America

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