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Research Update

April 2019

Food Allergy Researchers Investigate Skin Patch Treatment for Peanut Allergic Children

The Food Allergy Research Group at ACRI has published results from a study of a skin patch treatment for peanut allergy.

At the beginning of the study, the children participated in a food challenge under close medical supervision at a food allergy center to determine the dose of peanut protein that would elicit an allergic reaction. To test the skin patch treatment, these participants applied an adhesive patch between their shoulder blades daily. Patches were identical in size and shape and only differed in that some children received the peanut protein treatment while others received the placebo. After 12 months, children were given a second food challenge under close medical supervision to determine what dose of peanut protein would elicit an allergic reaction.

The study found a statistically significant improvement in response to the food challenge for children with the peanut-patch treatment compared to those receiving the placebo. However, as with treatment studies, the outcomes are closely scrutinized. The lower end of the range at which a reaction occurred in the peanut-patch treatment was not high enough to meet a predetermined level acceptable to regulatory agencies.

Despite this result, Dr. Jones and her colleagues are encouraged that some children had an increase in their protection level with the treatment. Further study will aid in determining the allergy patients to benefit from an effect, approved therapy for peanut allergy.

Common side effects such as itching, redness, and swelling were noted for children in both treatment groups. Serious reactions, including anaphylaxis occurred in both groups as well.

“We continue to be excited about new potential therapies for food allergy, and the peanut patch is one of those,” said Dr. Jones, chief of Allergy & Immunology at ACH and a professor of Pediatrics in the UAMS College of Medicine, “Studies are continuing with the hopes of defining patients that will have the best chance of responding to this novel therapy. Our team is invested in moving the field of food allergy therapeutics forward, and we look ahead to a day when we have one or more therapies to offer our patients.”

ACRI Releases Video on Clinical Trial Participation

In a new video Carré discusses participating in a clinical trial at ACRI

Participation of children and their families in research studies is crucial for developing treatments and interventions to improve children’s health and well-being. ACRI appreciates all of the children and families that volunteer for clinical studies. For families to better understand what participating in a clinical trial is like and the importance of participation in research, ACRI released a video in March featuring Carré, a child research participant, and her mother Carlotta. Carré’s mother was terrified to send her to the 1st grade with a life threatening peanut allergy. Seeking help, she enlisted Carré in a research study at ACRI. In the video, the daughter and mother describe what it is like to be a child research participant and how Carré is doing today. The full-length video can be viewed at https://youtu.be/VHqohbaQLCU. An abbreviated, 30-second version of the video will be shown at all home games of the Arkansas Travelers at Dickey-Stephens Park throughout the 2019 baseball season.

Researcher Spotlight: Reza Hakkak, PhD

Reza Hakkak, PhD, has conducted research at ACRI since 1992.

Among the most tenured researchers at ACRI, Reza Hakkak, PhD, has research interests in reducing chronic liver disease in children by proper nutrition. Oftentimes, chronic liver disease occurs due to fatty liver resulting from obesity. As pediatric obesity has risen, so has the incidence of fatty liver and resulting liver disease.

Among Dr. Hakkak’s goals is to uncover the molecular mechanism behind obesity and fatty liver. To find this connection, his innovative approach is to examine gut microbiota. Discovering the composition of gut microbiota in regards to obesity and fatty liver could lead to possible dietary interventions to reduce fatty liver in children.

This pursuit continues three decades of Dr. Hakkak’s research of nutrition and chronic disease, including cancer. He has published studies concerning obesity and breast cancer and the role of soy proteins in fatty liver disease. Dr. Hakkak joined UAMS as a postdoctoral fellow in Endocrinology 1987 and then the Department of Pediatrics in 1990. He was among the small group of researchers in ACRI’s early years at UAMS. He moved his laboratory to the ACRI Research Building when it was opened in 1992 on the campus of ACH.

Since 1998, Dr. Hakkak has been the chair of UAMS’ Department of Dietetics and Nutrition in the College of Health Professions. He was recently appointed Associate Dean for Research in the College of Health Professions. With his multiple responsibilities and commitments, he combines basic nutrition science into nutrition education for UAMS students and the community. As a widely respected authority on nutrition and health, Dr. Hakkak has over 80 appearance on television, nationally and internationally, to discuss the importance of healthy diet and its impact on personal health and well-being in children and adults.

Sarah Blossom, PhD, studies how environmental factors impact health.

Recent Achievements: Environmental Exposure Program

Sarah Blossom, PhD, Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, will be actively participating in the upcoming Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting in Baltimore. She will be presenting a poster, “Whole Genome Assessment Reveals Alterations in DNA Methylation of Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 Components in Effector/Memory CD4+ T Cells after Continuous and Discontinuous Developmental Exposure to Trichloroethylene,” on her work regarding epigenetics effects on T cells. The poster is from manuscript that is currently under review. Also, Dr. Blossom will be chairing and presenting in a continuing education course, “Microbiome and Environmental Toxicants: From Study Design and Analysis to Regulatory Guidance,” with Sangeeta Khare, PhD, at the meeting. Dr. Khare is a microbiome researcher from NCTR and a collaborator with Dr. Blossom on her most recent publication. SOT has a peer-review process that is highly competitive for proposed continuing education courses. The strength of the panel of experts and content Dr. Blossom assembled resulted in the invitation to present the course at the SOT Annual Meeting.

Dr. Blossom has been invited to present her research on environmental toxicants, epigenetics, and autoimmunity in a webinar for the Collaborative on Health nd the Environment (CHE). CHE is focused on how environmental risks can impact human health and cultivates a learning community based on the latest, evidence-based science to share knowledge and resources and to improve individual and collective health. CHE webinars are designed to share and discuss the latest breakthroughs in environmental research to ~150 participants including environmental health scientists, researchers, medical professionals, health advocates, and government representatives.

Find Out About Opportunities to Participate in Research

Information on currently enrolling clinical studies at ACRI is available at ACH's Clinical Trials Webpage. Interested families can voluntarily join ACRI’s Research Registry at https://secure.archildrens.org/ResearchContacts/ to be contacted about pediatric clinical research. To receive Text Alerts about currently enrolling clinical research studies, interested persons can text RESEARCH to 411247 (message and data rates may apply; terms and conditions at www.mobivity.com/411247terms).

ACRI Researcher-Specific Announcements

Announcements that are specific to ACRI/ACH Campus Researchers may be found at the Weekly Research Update page: https://compoint.peds.ad.uams.edu/ACRI/default.aspx.