Browse by Medical Category
Allergy & Clinical Immunology Unit
Learn more about the Pediatric Food Allergy Center
Thursday, May 6, 2010
In Fall 2009, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) established a comprehensive Center for the Treatment and Study of Food Allergy and Food-Related Disorders (the "Food Allergy Center") to provide state-of-the-art care while investigating the mysteries that underlie these inadequately understood and as yet incurable diseases. By dovetailing a multi-specialty collaborative approach to care with research and training, the center's physicians expertly diagnose and treat children and adults suffering from IgE-mediated food allergies as well as food-induced gastrointestinal immune disorders.
The Food Allergy Center has been launched to leverage emerging clinical and research opportunities that provide fresh hope for patients and families and work with them to advance the effort to find effective therapy. Created in partnership with several pediatric and adult specialties at the MGH, the Food Allergy Center's mission is to recruit key faculty and staff; pilot innovative research studies; enhance patient, family and professional education programs; support advanced training in food allergy research and build a clinical research database and specimen bank to facilitate translational research.
A Collaborative, Collegial Approach to Care From Infancy through Adulthood
Approximately 6 to 8 percent of all young children and 4 percent of all adults in the U.S. suffer from food allergies (2), statistics that translate into reduced quality of daily life for approximately 1 in 20 Americans and their families. Common food allergens include milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (e.g. walnuts, cashews) shellfish, soy and wheat, but IgE sensitization can occur to a very wide range of dietary proteins. Millions more Americans are affected by other disorders also induced by an aberrant immune response to certain foods.
The food allergy center focuses on the entire spectrum of these diseases including:
The solutions to easing or eliminating the discomfort and anxiety caused by food-related diseases lie in the development of better diagnostic methods, treatments and means for prevention. Such solutions may be within reach sooner rather than later, and MGH is well-positioned to be a leading center of research in this area. As these answers are being sought, the MGH Food Allergy Center is providing state-of-the-art care for patients of all ages and a rich training ground for future specialists.
Features that Distinguish the MGH Food Allergy Center
Making an accurate diagnosis and prescribing proper treatment for patients suffering from any of the above disorders is a challenge for even the most experienced physicians. Therefore, MGH Food Allergy Center relies on a collaborative and collegial approach to care, engaging experts in pediatric and adult gastroenterology, pediatric pulmonary disease, allergy and immunology, dietitians, psychologists, clinical coordinators and social workers.
This singular clinical environment offers unique training opportunities for young physicians and investigators who represent the next generation of specialists in the study and treatment of food allergy and related conditions. The MGH has long been one of the world's premier "talent incubators" through its affiliation with Harvard Medical School, and the Food Allergy Center will help enrich the hospital's medical education offerings.
A Plan for Growth and Discovery
With a strong foundation of clinical services in place, the next steps in the Food Allergy Center's growth and development are to mount more aggressive and expansive efforts in basic research, clinical studies and translational initiatives that bridge the gap between the laboratory and the clinic.
Their dual mission will be to (1) deepen our understanding of the underlying molecular and biological factors contributing to food-related diseases and (2) convert lab findings into better diagnostic methods, more effective treatments, new means for disease prevention and ultimately cures. To aid investigators in achieving these goals the Food Allergy Center must build a research infrastructure that provides the necessary technical and administrative personnel, laboratory space and technology in both the center's clinical and research programs.
Examples of questions that the Food Allergy Center's research program could pursue include:
Clinical Studies in Progress
Two clinical protocols have been developed with enrollment expected to begin by this summer pending IRB approval and funding:
In both of these studies, there will be a significant translational research component to evaluate mechanisms of immune modulation in OIT, focusing on basophils and B cells, and building a specimen bank and clinical database for EoE.
Back to Top