Groundbreaking Allergy Finding

Principal Investigator Erik Wambre, PhD, and colleagues used single-cell technology, tetramers, and other tools in collaboration with Virginia Mason physicians and their patients’ blood samples donated to the biorepository, to make a groundbreaking allergy discovery that will alter the course of allergy research. They identified a single type of immune cell that appears to drive all allergies.

“This cell, which we named TH2A, could be a promising focal point for research to improve diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of allergies,” says Dr. Wambre. Additionally, these cells could be used as biomarkers, or indicators, that show whether a person has an allergy or is responding to allergy therapy.

Immune Cell Drives All Allergies
“Up until our recent discovery, we couldn’t easily identify the destructive immune cells triggering allergies from the good cells protecting the body from parasites, bacteria or viruses,” explains Dr. Wambre. “Our work shows, for the first time, what these troublesome immune cells are doing — when they respond to an allergen or to a vaccine — and also what they look like, so we can consistently keep finding them. We also observed that this special type of cell – TH2A — appears to be present across all allergies.”

Dr. Wambre and his colleagues performed tests to confirm that TH2A cells play a pivotal role in at least six common allergies — including peanut, grass pollen, mold, cat dander, tree pollen and dust mites.

“This means if you have an allergy you have TH2A cells in your blood,” he notes. “If you are not allergic, then you don’t. Our research also shows that effective allergy therapy eliminates these bad cells from the body. I’m hoping my research will now be able to identify a signature — a specific biological indicator — from a drop of blood that will predict the presence of an allergy long before the first symptoms are experienced.

Mary Farrington, MD, a Virginia Mason allergist and clinical researcher helps BRI principal researcher Erik Wambre, PhD, make allergy research breakthroughs.
Mary Farrington, MD, a Virginia Mason allergist and clinical researcher helps BRI Principal Researcher Erik Wambre, PhD, make allergy research breakthroughs.


"The discovery of TH2A cells now opens the door to therapies that could target this common enemy and transform treatment," Dr. Wambre said. "Most importantly, this will make a difference in the lives of people living with often life-threatening food allergies.”

Image of TH2A cell - Erik Wambre, PhD, and colleagues discovered this single type of immune cell that appears to drive all allergies, TH2A. Image named th2a cell.
Erik Wambre, PhD, and colleagues discovered this single type of immune cell that appears to drive all allergies, TH2A.