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Fat molecule treatment may stop severe peanut allergy reaction in mice

Consuming a fat molecule made by gut bacteria seems to offer protection against anaphylaxis due to peanut allergy

Health 21 August 2022

By Carissa Wong


Peanuts could cause severe allergies

JJ Gouin / Alamy

Consuming a fat molecule made by gut bacteria may prevent mice with severe peanut allergies from experiencing a life-threatening immune reaction. The findings suggest the approach could prevent this anaphylaxis reaction in people who have food allergies also it might even prevent people developing allergies to begin with.

Anaphylaxis commonly involves nausea, abdominal pain and impaired breathing or trouble swallowing. In the last decade, researchers have discovered a fat molecule called butyrate, that is made by gut bacteria, can reduce these allergies in mice. People who have food allergies also appear to have less butyrate-producing bacteria than non-allergic people do, suggesting that boosting butyrate may help them.

However, butyrate can smell like dog faeces or rancid butter, rendering it unpleasant to swallow. Whats more, when taken orally, it reduces before achieving the lower gut where its beneficial effects happen.

Now, Shijie Cao at the University of Chicago in Illinois and his colleagues are suffering from a method to mask the foul smell of butyrate and deliver the molecule to the low gut, by packaging it within spherical capsules called micelles which are around 30 nanometres wide. We developed this drug delivery platform, polymeric micelles, to provide butyrate to the gut to take care of food allergies, says Cao, who presented the task at a gathering of the American Chemical Society in Chicago on 21 August.

The researchers treated 80 mice having an antibiotic to lessen their degrees of butyrate-producing gut bacteria, then gave them severe peanut allergies giving them peanut protein alongside an immune-stimulating toxin for four weeks. Then they gave the micelles to half the mice twice each day for 14 days, with another half finding a saline solution as a control, before feeding all the animals 1 milligram of peanut protein.

As the control mice developed anaphylaxis from the peanut protein, as measured by way of a drop within their core body’s temperature and increased immune activity, the mice that received the micelles didnt. It had been an extremely exciting moment whenever we saw the outcomes, that the butyrate prevented anaphylaxis, says Cao.

By analysing the bacteria in the mouse faeces before and after treatment, the team then discovered that the butyrate-carrying micelles boosted the growth of butyrate-producing bacteria, suggesting that the procedure could alter the gut microbiome to create more of its butyrate.

Were targeting developing a niche for all those healthy bacteria to cultivate by using this treatment, so the micelles dont have to be taken for a long time, says Cao.

The researchers also hope that the procedure may be used to prevent people developing various kinds of food allergies to begin with. The approach should focus on any food allergen, says Cao. We imagine the micelles could can be found in a packet, and you simply add it to one glass of water.

Short-chain essential fatty acids [like butyrate] could absolutely prevent food allergy, says Charles Mackay at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. This work could have an enormous impact if the treatments work in humans. We have to do the trials and I’m very optimistic. Existing treatments are crude and unconvincing.

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