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Immunomodulatory effects of prebiotics in peanut allergy

Yesterday, December 11 2018, Simone Hayen publicly defended her PhD thesis “Immunomodulatory effects of non-digestible oligosaccharides in peanut allergy – treating by eating”, highlighting the beneficial effects of non-digestible oligosaccharides on the efficacy of immunotherapy strategies to treat peanut allergy.

Numbers of allergies are rising

The prevalence of food allergies is increasing worldwide, particularly but not only in developed countries and has an impact on the quality of life of affected children and adults. Food allergies can develop when immunological tolerance against harmless food allergens is hampered. Currently, no lasting treatment options are available to restore long-lasting tolerance in peanut-allergic patients. Immunotherapeutic approaches aiming to restore tolerance are still under development. Major issues are efficacy and the frequent occurrence of sometimes severe allergic reactions.

To further optimize these immunotherapeutic approaches, more interest is gained towards the use of specific adjuvants during immunotherapy, such as anti-IgE antibody omalizumab or even dietary components. The rationale behind the use of dietary adjunct therapy is that these components have immunomodulatory capacities and may already skew the immune response away from the allergenic phenotype towards a more regulatory or T helper 1 (Th1) phenotype. Hereby they support the immunotherapeutic approaches, rendering them more safe and efficacious.

The most important focus of this thesis was the investigation of the immunomodulatory effects of non-digestible oligosaccharides (prebiotics).

Immunomodulatory effect of prebiotics

Simone focused during her PhD mostly on studying the effects of the prebiotics short-chain galacto-oligosaccharides and long-chain fructo-oligosaccharides (scGOS/lcFOS) and short-and long-chain fructo-oligosaccharides (scFOS/lcFOS). Based on previous studies, it was hypothesized that they might be able to contribute to the safety and efficacy of developingapproaches for allergen-specific immunotherapy. In her thesis, Simone describes in vitro models using blood of peanut-allergic patients to investigate these immunomodulatory effects.

The results of this thesis provide valuable insights into the immunomodulatory effects of scGOS/lcFOS and scFOS/lcFOS, as they, for example, can skew the immune function towards a more regulatory and Th1-like phenotype in an in vitro environment. In addition, scGOS/lcFOS and scFOS/lcFOS, were able to reduce basophil degranulation and modify antigen presentation by DCs in the presence of peanut-extract. The development of peanut allergy and food allergy in general is a complex phenomenon, which requires more research to understand.

We hypothesize that adjunct therapy with oligosaccharides in combination with immunotherapy might be the next step in safely inducing long-lasting tolerance in peanut-allergic patients

Simone’s promotores are Prof.dr. A.C. Knulst, Professor Dermato-Allergology UMC Utrecht and Prof.dr. J. Garssen, Professor of Immunopharmacology of Nutrition at Utrecht University and Research Director Immunology, Danone Nutricia Research, The Netherlands. Co-promotores are dr. H.G. Otten and dr. L.E.M. Willemsen.

Find out more about the defence here

Interested to read more about Danone Nutricia Research’s work on immunology? Click here