Before I had kids, I had no idea what a problem peanut allergies have become. Now it seems that every class my kids are in and every sports team they are on includes at least one child with a dangerous allergy to nuts.
One trace of peanut protein can cause an allergic child to swell up and stop breathing in an instant. It’s scary, scary stuff. But there might be a bright spot on the horizon.
A pair of
science nerds Ph.D’s from Northwestern University, Stephen Miller and Paul Bryce, have come up with a very promising treatment for peanut allergies. And they did it over a couple of beers. Hooray for beer!
In essence, the allergic reaction is triggered when the body misidentifies peanut protein as an invader, and responds by setting off an immune response that involves a lot of swelling. This swelling can include the throat, cutting off a child’s air supply, leading to death by asphyxiation. Nasty stuff.
Bryce, a food allergist, and Miller, an autoimmune disease expert, work in different parts of Northwestern’s science machine, but they like to get together on Friday nights to discuss what they’re working on over a couple of pints.
It was during such a session that Miller and Bryce came up with the idea of taking one of Miller’s concepts and applying it to Bryce’s work on peanut allergies.
In a nutshell (zing!), Miller had developed a technique to retrain the immune system to ignore harmless entities in the body by fusing them to white blood cells. Bryce took this idea and tethered peanut proteins to white blood cells from allergic mice and re-injected them back into the critters. And, Bingo! No more peanut allergy!
This could be just the breakthrough that parents with allergic kids have been praying for. And the whole thing happened over a couple of beers. Awesome.
It’s long been known that good things happen when folks slow down and talk thing out over a couple of cold ones. This is true for politics, for race relations, and as it turns out, for science as well. Again, hooray for beer! Saving mankind one pint at a time!