The CDC says more than 50 million people in the US suffer from allergies. Fifteen million are allergic to foods which can be life-threatening. Now researchers have a target for developing treatments and better diagnoses.
Franny Hall's peanut allergy has gotten worse since her first reaction to peanut butter in the first grade.
Franny said, "My throat, it closes, like bit by bit and yeah, it's just really hard to breathe."
She carries an Epi-pen everywhere she goes, and she's had to use it. It's tough for the whole family.
Tim Hall, Franny's dad, said: "You worry about what happens if this occurs to her and all the catastrophic things that can happen when you have anaphylaxis."
Erik Wambre, Ph.D., Principal Researcher at Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason's discovery of the TH2A cell could be a big step toward stopping allergies like Franny's. Now researchers can target the cell, which only appears in people with allergies.
Wambre said, "If we can destroy or block the cells, these cells, you should have an improvement in your symptoms." (Read Full Interview)
Now, Wambre is part of another study that uses the TH2A cells as a biomarker while participants are slowly exposed to their allergen. The information can tell doctors whether therapy is working, or not. Franny is in that trial, and her dad is proud she's sticking with it.
"This is the hope for you, that you could get better, and if it works for you, it could work for somebody else," said Tim.
Next up: Wambre will work to find the molecule that will short- circuit TH2A cells.
"It's a dream, but maybe if we find this molecule that would block those cells, we will treat not only one allergy but maybe all of them," stated Wambre.
Franny hopes that's a dream realized.
A team of researchers at Benaroya Research Institute and Virginia Mason got a five million dollar NIH grant to accelerate their work to find allergy treatments. Erik Wambre hopes to expand his study to find unique cancer cells in the blood.
Contributors to this news report include: Wendy Chioji, Field Producer; Rusty Reed, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Dave Harrison, Editor.
Health Watch: Halting life-threatening allergies