Researchers develop mRNA treatment that could combat peanut allergy

A treatment with mRNA nanoparticles could offer a new technique to mitigate harmful peanut allergies and reactions.

Peanut allergies are at least inconvenient and at worst deadly. More than 4.6 million adults in the United States are allergic to legumes.

For young children, discovering an allergy can be a dangerous time. A new study published in ACS Nano could offer a potential cure for peanut allergies by using lipid mRNA nanoparticles to “train” the body out of an allergy.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) were inspired by the use of mRNA in the creation of the COVID vaccine. “As far as we can find, mRNA has never been used for allergic disease,” paper co-author Dr. André Nel told New Atlas.

“We have shown that our platform can work to alleviate peanut allergies, and we believe it can do the same for other allergens, in foods and medications, as well as autoimmune conditions.”

Trials have already shown that the procedure reduces allergic reactions to peanuts in mice.

What is the mechanism behind this exciting breakthrough?

According to MD/PhD scholar Anna Nowak-Wegrzyn, “Food allergy is defined as an immune-mediated adverse reaction to food proteins.”

In the case of peanut allergies, a protein in peanuts causes a person’s body to react with an immune response to this foreign substance that it identifies as harmful.

To prevent this, the team encodes the mRNA with an epitope, which the dictionary defines as “the part of an antigen molecule to which an antibody binds.”

This can be made peanut specific, but could be tailored to a different allergy in the future.

This mRNA is placed into a lipid nanoparticle, which is delivered to the liver. There it influences antigen-presenting cells to tolerate peanut proteins.