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New immunotherapy could be the answer peanut allergy sufferers seek

Posted: 10 March 2022 | | No comments yet

Scientists in the US have found that a new form of allergen immunotherapy, which uses microneedles, has the potential to radically improve peanut allergy desensitisation.

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Treating peanut allergy with microneedles could improve desensitisation significantly, claims a new study. 

Around six million Americans have a peanut allergy, with symptoms that can range from mild hives to potentially fatal anaphylactic reactions. Currently, in the US, orally administered immunotherapy (the treatment of disease by activating or suppressing the immune system) is the only treatment for peanut allergy approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This requires patients to follow a strict long-term protocol for ingesting each dose.

Although epicutaneous immunotherapy (EPIT) has been demonstrated to be safe in clinical trials, the treatment can be variability in its efficacy. Jessica O’Konek, PhD, senior author of the paper and Research Assistant Professor at the Mary H. Weiser Food Allergy Center at Michigan Medicine believes this could be due to the barrier provided by the skin surface, which may limit the amount of allergen taken up by the body. 

In this new study, the researchers from Michigan Medicine, in collaboration with a team from Moonlight Therapeutics, used mice to test whether peanut allergies could be treated with microneedles. The idea being that targeted delivery of peanut protein with microneedle patches could provide more controlled delivery of an allergen.

A dermal stamp containing peanut-coated microneedles was applied to the skin of the mice for five minutes once a week over the course of a five week period. The results of this were compared to that of mice receiving applied immunotherapy, which involves wearing a patch on the skin for 24 hours, over the same time period.

The results, published in Future Medicine, revealed that the mice receiving five weekly microneedle treatments had become much less sensitive to peanuts compared to the other group. These findings suggest that the method could indeed provide greater protection from severe allergic reactions that affect millions of people.

“While our pre-clinical results are from studies in animal models, they demonstrate the potential for peanut microneedles to improve food allergen immunotherapy through the skin,” said O’Konek. “Treatment options for food allergy are limited, so there is a lot of motivation for the development of novel therapeutics. It will be exciting to watch the clinical development of this technology.”