A plate of green beans with hake.
A new study has looked at the potential of formononetin to control the production of immunoglobulin E.
Researchers have combined computational methods advanced with experimental studies to gain new insights, at the cellular level, about how the plant compound formononetin could be used to treat food allergies. With almost 10% of the world's population affected by these sometimes life-threatening allergies, new treatments are urgently needed.
Formonetin is found in plants and herbs such as red clover and green beans, and has been shown to have anti-cancer properties. It is a phytoestrogen, meaning it is similar in structure to the hormone estrogen and can bind to estrogen receptors in the body.
“Our findings demonstrate that formononetin is a therapeutic candidate especially good for treating food allergies –says Ibrahim Musa, doctoral candidate in pathology, microbiology and immunology at New York Medical College (United States)–. Our research also revealed new mechanisms and targets that can be used to design future drugs to treat food allergies and other allergic disorders or to prevent the severe anaphylaxis seen in allergic diseases.”
Musa will present the new research at the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology during the Experimental Biology (EB) 2022 meeting in Philadelphia.
Food allergies occur when the immune system treats a food or part of a food as a threat. This causes the immune system to produce immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies that react to the food and can cause allergy symptoms such as hives, asthma, itching, trouble breathing, or diarrhea.
In earlier studies, researchers identified formononetin as a potential allergy therapy because it decreased IgE production. To find out more, the researchers turned to an approach known as systems pharmacology.
To do this, they used data from public databases to identify regulated genetic and protein targets in food allergies and mast cell diseases. Mast cells also play an important role in IgE-mediated allergic diseases.
Once the genetic and protein targets were identified, the researchers validated them using cultured cell lines that are commonly used in allergy studies. These cell experiments demonstrated that formononetin influences the expression of gene and protein targets identified by systems pharmacology.
“Our study demonstrates that Systems pharmacology can be used to predict the interaction between drugs and compounds,” Musa stresses. “Furthermore, the mechanism of action identified for formononetin is also important for other allergic diseases such as allergic asthma and hay fever. This suggests that the formononetin or other therapeutic candidates that decrease IgE production could be useful in treating these diseases.”
Researchers have developed a mouse model of peanut allergy that they plan to use to study the formononetin and identify possible side effects.
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