Researcher Working Toward Safer Allergy Testing

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While Bilgicer's is developing the method for peanuts, he says it could be applicable for any food allergy. While Bilgicer's is developing the method for peanuts, he says it could be applicable for any food allergy.

A University of Notre Dame researcher has an ambitious vision for his allergy testing method. Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Associate Professor Bashar Bilgicer is developing an allergy test that would replace the traditional oral food challenge technique and the dangers that come with it. Bilgicer talked about the allergy diagnostic tool with Special Projects Reporter Kylie Veleta in our most recent edition of the Life Sciences INdiana enewsletter. Right now, the platform is being used to test peanut allergies, but Bilgicer believes it can be adapted for detecting any food allergy.

He says the stakes are high for patients with allergies. "I know how dire, you know, how challenging it is to plan your day around those type of hurdles," Bilgicer said. "I talk to parents who are really concerned because, you know, some of those conditions can be really severe and they're worried that after they drop their kids at school in the morning, whether or not they will be able to see them safe and sound when they pick them up in the afternoon. It's very unpleasant. Very traumatic for parents and the child."

The testing Bilgicer is developing is conducted outside the body using a patient's blood sample that is tested with 40-50 "nanoallergens" his team has designed to find more specific reactions than the wider in scope food challenge.

“When you give a peanut, you’re basically giving all of those components to the patient at once, so you don’t really know which one is the culprit - the one responsible for the [allergic] response,” says Bilgicer. “With our nanoallergens, we’re dissecting these individual components [within a peanut] and presenting them one at a time [to the patient’s blood sample] - rather than giving the whole mixture - to identify, for a given patient, which one of the components is critical. That helps us achieve a much more accurate diagnosis of the extent of the condition for that patient."

Bilgicer's team is working with the Indiana University School of Medicine on clinical data verification. He hopes to receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance and believes a test "kit" could be in the hands of businesses or doctors within one or two years.

You can read more about the testing method by clicking here.

Bilgicer says, in extreme cases, parents and patients live their daily lives in fear of the food allergen.
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