Fighting Food Allergies – The University of Southampton Partners with Natasha Allergy Research Foundation

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As of June 25, 2019, the University of Southampton will be collaborating with the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation, supporting the foundation’s aim of becoming a global hub for research on food allergies.

Food allergies appear to have been increasing worldwide for the past decades.

It has been announced on June 25th that the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation would enter a collaboration with the University of Southampton. The latter is, as highlighted by Professor Mark Spearing (University President and interim Vice-Chancellor), a “recognised World Allergy Organisation centre of excellence”, and is aiming at providing the resources necessary for NARF to reach its objectives. These include improving the everyday life of worldwide food allergy sufferers, understanding the roots and causes of food allergies, and developing more efficient treatments. The money raised by the foundation will fund small-scale to global research projects, hoping on the long-term to find a cure to this dangerous condition.

Allergies are an overreaction of the immune system.

NARF was founded by Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse, whose daughter had a fatal allergic reaction in 2016 to sesame seeds baked into a baguette dough. Natasha had had several allergic reactions to various food items, from 6 months old to 15, when she eventually succumbed to an anaphylactic episode. As an infant, her food allergies would translate as severe eczema, before turning into breathing difficulties and asthma after she turned one.

Allergies are an overreaction of the immune system to proteins (allergens) that white blood cells confuse as antigens, which are normally found at the surface of pathogens. Eight food types account for the majority of food allergies: nuts, peanuts, eggs, milk, fish, shellfish, soy, and  wheat. Although food allergies appear to have been increasing worldwide for the past decades, especially in children, science has yet to pinpoint their exact causes, and why the trend keeps climbing. Factors such as air pollution and the lack of begnin exposure to microbes have been suspected by various studies.

With the University of Southampton scientists working hand in hand with the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation, a step might be taken towards future ground-breaking discoveries regarding the causes of food allergies and how to fight them.

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Science and Tech editor 2019/20, Fourth year Marine Biology student. Can be found at the pool, the sea or on a windsurf board.

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