The scientists were able to reduce allergic reactions in their subjects by a staggering 90 percent.

Peanut Allergy
Credit: © Jack Andersen / Getty Images

For those who suffer from debilitating food allergies, recent medical findings might provide unprecedented hope for a cure. Scientists at the University of Saskatchewan have developed a new immunotherapy technique that has been shown to reduce allergic reactions in 90 percent of their animal test subjects after a single round of treatments.

The findings, which were published in the latest Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, have identified a way to potentially cure a variety of allergies and autoimmune diseases with one innovative new therapy. Though the initial testing was carried out on animal subjects, lead scientist John Gordon claims the likelihood of these treatments being effective in humans is high, given their use of "humanized mice" in testing (mice that have been implanted with cells from human immune systems).

The treatment pioneered by Gordon and his team of scientists involves producing dendritic cells—those which serve as the gate-keepers of the immune system—in a test tube and exposing them to a unique mix of proteins depending on the specific allergy being treated. In 2010, the scientists successfully used this technique to reverse asthmatic response in human cells in a lab, and in 2012, they managed to eliminate asthma in affected mice after just eight weeks of treatment.

Now, researchers claim the treatment has proven effective in curing a variety of food allergies in their furry subjects. In the latest round of testing, the scientists were able to convert allergen-sensitive immune cells into ones that mimic those of non-allergic individuals, reducing allergic reactions in their subjects by a staggering 90 percent. Though cells sensitive to peanuts or egg white proteins were utilized in the initial test, Gordon and team expect a variety of allergies and ailments could be reversed with their method.

"This discovery reverses food allergies in mice, and we have many people with allergies volunteering their own cells for us to use in lab testing to move this research forward," says Gordon. The researchers are prepared to conduct their first human trial in about one year, subject to approval by Health Canada. Following human trials, Gordon predicts the treatment "could be on the market within the next five to 10 years."

Gordon hopes to make the treatment accessible to the public as soon as possible, noting, "If we can reliably 'cure' food allergies, or related conditions such as asthma or autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis with this new therapy, it would be life-changing for affected individuals."