Children's Memorial Study Seeks To Uncover Causes Of Food Allergies

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Five-year-old Kaleb and his sister 2-year-old Casey have severe food allergies, and unintentionally eating the wrong thing could have disastrous consequences for them.

Five-year-old Kaleb and his sister 2-year-old Casey have severe food allergies, and unintentionally eating the wrong thing could have disastrous consequences for them.

Mast cells send their contents to surrounding tissue to produce responses common in allergic reactions, such as swelling and excess mucus. Euthman/Flickr

“Every day you put food in their mouths that might kill them,” their mother Kristine Trone said.

In addition to starting a food allergy support  group in Galesburg, Kristine and her husband Charly Trone have joined a study at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago that will explore genetic and environmental causes of food allergies.

“We feel like we’re being proactive, instead of fighting against it.” Kristine Trone said.

Children's Memorial Hospital has recruited 500 families since 2004 and is looking for 500 more families over the next two years for an ongoing allergy study that would create the largest genetic referral bank in the world for food allergies.

The study hopes to explain the causes of food allergies. “It’s increased in the industrialized nations, we have, really, no idea why,” said Christine Szychlinski, a nurse practitioner and manager of the Bunning Food Allergy Program at Children’s Memorial Hospital.

The study also hopes to pinpoint the underlying mechanisms of allergies, discover better treatments and ultimately see if they can be prevented.

“There is no other study that is looking at food allergies with this scope," Szychlinski said.

The study is unique in not just its size, but also because it looks at “genetic susceptibility,” Szychlinski said. The study will look at the mother, the father and the child who has food allergies. Each member of the family will have an “extensive environmental exposure history”, a skin test and have blood drawn to look at levels of specific allergens as “genetic markers,” Szchlinski said.

Szchlinski said it is important for the study to get to 1,000 families because, “unless we reach that 1,000, it’s just not going to mean anything. Statistically, it won’t have the power.”

Joining the study has been important to the Trones. “We thought rather than be part of the problem, we’d be part of the solution,” Kristine Trone said. “There’s not going to be a cure unless we do it. Maybe not for our kids, but for our kid’s kids.”

Families interested in participating can call (312) 573-7755, or send an email toallergystudy@childrensmemorial.org.

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