Food allergy is an abnormal response to a food triggered by the body’s immune system. Symptoms include itching, a rash, vomiting, difficult breathing, and lowered blood pressure.
While almost 30% of Americans think they have food allergies, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) found that
food allergy occurs in 6 to 8 percent of children 4 years of age or under, and in 3.7 percent of adults.
Diagnosing food allergies is described on the Mayo Clinic website. The procedures take time and money and, according to many, yield unreliable results.
"MIT chemical engineer Christopher Love believes he has a better way to diagnose such allergies. His new technology, described in the June 7 issue of the journal Lab on a Chip, can analyze individual immune cells taken from patients, allowing for precise measurement of the cells’ response to allergens such as milk and peanuts.
To perform the test, blood must be drawn from the patient, and white blood cells (which include T cells) are isolated from the sample.
The cells are exposed to a potential allergen and then placed into about 100,000 individual wells arranged in a lattice pattern on a soft rubber surface. Using a technique known as microengraving, the researchers make “prints” of the cytokines produced by each cell onto the surface of a glass slide. The amount of cytokine secreted by each individual cell can be precisely measured. MITnews