Now, a better way to detect food allergy!

Updated: May 22, 2010, 13:12 PM IST

Washington: Scientists in the US claim to have developed a better technology to detect food allergies in people.

A team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says that the technology can analyse individual immune cells taken from patients, allowing precise measurement of cells` response to allergens like milk and peanuts, the latest edition of the `Lab on a Chip` journal reported.

Using this technology, doctors could one day diagnose food allergies with a simple blood test that would be faster and more reliable than current tests, according to Christopher Love, who led the team.

"With a large number of diagnoses, it`s ambiguous. A lot of times it`s almost circumstantial whether you`re allergic to one thing or another," he said.

The technology screens the patient`s immune cells for small proteins known as cytokines. Immune cells such as T cells produce cytokines when an allergic response`s initiated, attracting other cells to join in the response.

To perform the test, blood must be drawn from the patient, and white blood cells (which include T cells) are isolated from the sample. The cells are exposed to a potential allergen and then placed into about 100,000 individual wells arranged in a lattice pattern on a soft rubber surface.

Using a technique known as microengraving, the scientists make "prints" of the cytokines produced by each cell onto the surface of a glass slide. The amount of cytokine secreted by each individual cell can be precisely measured.

For food-allergy testing, the cytokines of most interest are IL4, IL5 and IL9, say the scientists.