CHICAGO (CBS) — Nut or peanut allergies can be life threatening. Now, as CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot reports, research from Northwestern University is offering hope for the nearly 2 million people nationwide who suffer from this type of allergy.
Jaden Behringer, a 1st grader at Pope John XIII Catholic School in Evanston, carries a set of EpiPens in his backpack in case of an allergic attack. The pens allow him to get an injection if he shows symptoms of an allergic reaction to nuts or peanuts.
He’s just one of several students at his school to carry an EpiPen with him each day.
Michael Cutler, a 6th grader, said that if he were to eat peanuts, “my neck will start to swell up and I’ll get some hives here and I’ll have some trouble breathing.”
Of the 292 students at the school, 13 have nut or peanut allergies. As a safety precaution, those children can sit in a peanut-free zone, called the peanut-free table.
“I’ve been in education about 35 years and we’ve never had this many children with peanut allergies and other allergies also,” Principal Rosalie Musiala said.
Dr. Paul Bryce, an assistant professor of medicine and allergy specialist at Northwestern, said that, “knowing what is causing the increase in peanut allergies – it still remains to be determined.”
Research in Bryce’s lab is offering promise for peanut allergy sufferers. Bryce is an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
Bryce said his study has involved taking cells from mice. Protein molecules found in peanuts are then attached to those cells and re-injected into the peanut-sensitive mice. The mice then develop immunity to the peanuts.
“This could be long-lived protection and we’re seeing elements of that in the animals that we’ve used in the study,” Bryce said.
“That would be great, you know, if one day I had no peanut allergy and could sit down and make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you know, like everybody else in this world,” Michael said. “Can’t do that yet, but it would be great if I could.”
Bryce said he and his team are driven to do this research, because of children like Michael. The next step in the research is to do more extended animal trials. The goal is to eventually have clinical trials.