Early changes in immune T-cell populations may aid researchers in determining which patients with peanut allergies will respond well to oral immunotherapy. They can also pinpoint which immune mechanisms are involved in the response, according to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Researchers from Stanford University examined blood samples from volunteers with peanut allergies enrolled in an oral immunotherapy study. Subjects took small, gradually increasing daily doses of peanut protein for 24 months with the end goal of introducing long-term tolerance to peanut. The team of researchers used advanced techniques to track changes in peanut-specific T-cells in 5 subjects during the first 18 months of peanut immunotherapy. These were compared with those from blood samples taken before the start of immunotherapy, and from healthy non-allergic volunteers. 

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They found that immunotherapy led to an increase in peanut-specific T-cells and a change in distribution of T-cell subtypes over time. After treatment, T-cell subtypes typically linked to allergic responses decreased, while a novel T-cell population that likely would not lead to an allergic response increased. 

Findings from the study emphasize the power of the method to analyze and monitor allergen-specific immune cell changes during immunotherapy. More studies with patients will help determine whether this type of T-cell analysis is beneficial in predicting which allergic individuals are most likely to benefit from this investigational therapy.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. 

For more information visit niaid.nih.gov.