After a bone marrow transplant, a 10 year old boy in the United States was cured of a severe peanut allergy… oh, and his leukemia is gone as well. Actually, the transplant was performed to treat his cancer; the effect it had on his allergy to peanuts was pure serendipity. This is not the first time that a transplant is linked to an allergy, but it usually works the other way around. That is, bone marrow, liver and kidney recipients have been reported to develop food allergies, but this is among the few times that an allergy is cured as a by-effect of a bone marrow transplant.
Food allergy has come to the forefront on public health care in America in the past few years, best exemplified by peanut, a lifelong allergy that has led to some schools enforcing a ban on all nuts. Allergic reactions can be as mild as rash and tingling, and as severe as a potentially deadly anaphylactic shock. There are cells that provide an immune response to proteins known as antigens. Sometimes these cells seem to believe that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, and that’s when allergies occur.
Since these cells are located in the bone marrow, and given that such a transplant entails replacing unhealthy bone marrow cells with healthy ones, there is a chance that the overreacting cells causing allergy get lost in the shuffle too. However, as alarming as food allergy has become, bone marrow transplants are both risky and expensive, so the idea of the latter as a treatment for the former is completely out of the question. Still, these lucky shots may offer insight on how allergy comes to be, and in turn, on how it can be eradicated.