Genetic Marker Aids Diagnosis And Treatment Of Painful Food Allergy

Heather Johnson

Good news in the diagnosis and treatment of severe and painful food allergies: Scientists have identified a genetic marker for the food allergy eosinophilic esophagitis that may aid in the diagnosis and treatment of the disorder.

Eosinophilic esophagitis is a disease that causes weight loss, vomiting, heartburn, and problems with swallowing. Children with the disorder experience swelling of the throat after eating certain foods. The disorder most commonly affects young men who also have other allergies including asthma and eczema. Current treatment includes anesthesia and invasive endoscopy.

Researchers, however, recently reported in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology that a dysregulated microRNA signature has been identified for eosinophilic esophagitis. According to Marc E. Rothenberg, MD, PhD, director of Allergy and Immunology and the Center for Eosinophilic Disorders at Cincinnati Children's, microRNAs are "short segments of RNA that can regulate whether genetic messengers (mRNAs) are degraded or translated into protein." Rothenberg furthermore explains:

The identification of biomarkers specific to EoE is a significant advancement for both the diagnosis and treatment of the disease. The microRNA signature provides an opportunity for more precise analysis of esophageal biopsies.

Even more importantly, researchers also discovered that patients who suffer from eosinophilic esophagitis but who also respond to steroid treatments for the disorder show a normalization of the the expression of the dysregulated microRNAs. Such a discovery indicates that the recently identified dysregulated microRNA signature can be used a biomarker for eosinophilic esophagitis, furthering the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.