Food allergies pose a serious and growing problem in the West. Many foods can lead to allergic reactions and this situation is further complicated by so-called cross-reactions, whereby an allergy to one particular food can trigger allergic reactions to another food. There are no treatments available for food allergies, but the establishment of two mouse models can be used to develop and test new forms of treatment, for example vaccines.
Around 4-8% of children and 1-4% of adults in the West suffer from food allergy. The most common causes of food allergy are peanuts, nuts, soya, milk, fish, shellfish, flour and eggs, but a total of over 170 different foods have been found to result in allergic reactions. In addition, there are the allergies that arise as a result of cross reactions to other types of food. The only form of treatment is to avoid all consumption of the food that the person is allergic to. Allergenic substances that are hidden in processed foods therefore pose a particular problem for people allergic to foods.
Nina E. Vinje's doctoral research has led to the establishment of two mouse models for food allergy to the legumes lupin and Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum). These models have been used to test whether legumes such as soya, peanuts, Fenugreek and lupin can trigger allergic reactions in mice that are already allergic to lupin and Fenugreek respectively. It is important to establish good animal models for food allergies because the development of an allergic immune response depends on a complicated interaction between types of cells in several different organs. Vinje has made every effort to reduce the use of laboratory animals to a minimum during her project. For this reason, she used an advanced statistical method to develop the models in order to gain as much information as possible from the use of as few animals as possible.