Thursday, January 14, 2016

Monocyte hyperactivity at birth correlates with susceptibility to food allergy in infants

Every time I read a new article from Science Translational Medicine (STM) I have a distinct feeling that something is not right with its editorial board. For some reason, immunology papers published at STM usually start strong and clear and but end weak and confused, as if two different teams worked on them.

Now, I did analysis of this study for my immunology blog. So I wanted to share my reading experience of this paper.

Basically, for this study the authors had first collected cord blood cells from large cohort of newborn babies. Then, they have conducted surface phenotype and functional assays on those cord blood cells. In parallel, they have followed up with those babies up to 1 year to see who would show any susceptibility to allergens in skin prick test (SPT).       

In Figure 1, the authors showed that compared to non-allergic infants, monocytes from newborns who later developed allergies showed hyperactivity (IL-6↑, TNF-α↑, IL-1β↑) when stimulated in vitro with 1 µg/ml LPS (this dose of LPS is quite high. However they did not show dose titration results to see if this difference is apparent at high LPS dose only).

In the same Figure 1, the authors also showed that cord blood of infants who later developed food allergies had high ratio of monocytes to CD4 T cells (CD14+monocyte / CD4+ T cell ratio). Its all.

Afterwards, in Fig 2 and 3, the authors went on to show how exogenous cytokines influenced "generic, pooled" cord blood-derived CD4+ T cell differentiation. However, they did not compare CD4+ T cells derived from allergic-prone and non-allergic infants. So, basically these Fig 2 and 3 are completely uninformative.

In summary, this study analysed cord blood samples from 697 newborn babies and found that presence of large number of hyperactive monocytes in newborn babies correlated with food allergy development by age 1.

So what could we conclude from study that analysed cord blood samples from so large newborn cohort and found only 1 non-specific correlate to food allergy? And what presence of hyperactive monocytes really means? I would expected that STM would demand more vigorous quality.

David Usharauli

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