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Charles H. Hood Foundation | Andrew Wang, M.D., Ph.D. – July 2020
By identifying innovative pediatric advancements and providing funding in the critical phases of development, we are able to expedite high-impact breakthroughs that improve the health and lives of millions.
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Andrew Wang, M.D., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Medicine and Immunobiology

Yale University

Understanding the Role of Environmental Xenobiotics in Food Allergy


Key Words: Food allergy, Xenobiotics, NSAIDs, Food preservatives, Allergic inflammation

Childhood food allergies have become increasingly more common in the last 40 years. This is now a major problem in these children, who face severe lifestyle restrictions and the risk of anaphylaxis. The reason for this increase is still unclear. Since the food antigens to which children are now increasingly allergic have not changed (egg protein is still the same egg protein), it has been postulated that something uniquely present in the modern, urban environment is changing the immune activating context (adjuvant) in which the immune system “sees” food antigens. We thus hypothesized that man-made chemicals introduced in the 1960s could be adjuvants sufficient to cause food allergy. Using mouse models, we discovered that certain non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including ibuprofen, which is routinely used in children, and the food additive tert-butylhydroquinone (tBHQ), which is present in most fat-containing processed foods, could induce allergy to egg protein. Animals sensitized using ibuprofen subsequently anaphylaxed upon egg protein re-challenge. Using this new food allergy model, our proposal thus seeks to understand how these chemicals act as allergic adjuvants. Our work will reveal fundamental aspects of the biology of food allergy and may have major public health and clinical implications.