More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergic diseases, and as many as half of us are skin test positive for allergies. Allergies are an overreaction of the body’s immune system. Those of us who live and struggle with allergies have a hyper-alert immune system that overreacts when exposed to substances in the environment, such as dust mite, animal dander, ragweed pollen, and certain foods. It is alarming that between 1997 and 2002, the incidence of peanut allergy doubled among American children. Exposure to certain foods can cause people with food allergies to develop reactions ranging from hives to life-threatening anaphylaxis, which can cause swelling of the airway, loss of blood pressure, and potential death within minutes.
As part of our dynamic academic mission in the Division of Allergy-Immunology, we are conducting laboratory and clinical research to gain new knowledge and improve the treatment options for millions of people who live with allergies and chronic immune system conditions, such as asthma. With the leadership of Dr. Robert P. Schleimer, the Roy and Elaine Patterson Professor of Medicine and chief of the Division, our dedicated researchers are moving forward with exciting basic science and clinical studies that target these serious problems. As important, we are mentoring and training junior faculty and scientists who have dedicated their talents and energies to becoming experts in allergy-immunology.
We are taking a novel approach to the treatment of allergic disease using substance P, a peptide hormone produced in the body. We plan to use this approach to treat pollen and ultimately, food allergy. The prevalence of food allergy appears to be increasing. It is estimated to occur in 6 to 8 percent of children and 2 percent of adults. Unfortunately, at this time, there is no definitive therapy. Given the life-long nature of many food allergies, the need to develop treatments and prognostic measures for food allergies is urgent. Preliminary evidence shows that administration of substance P with an allergen can reduce allergic responses to a variety of inhaled allergens.
Our faculty members were the first to classify idiopathic anaphylaxis and develop clinical therapies for this life-threatening condition that has no identifiable causative allergen or inciting physical factor. Our faculty also diagnosed the first case of allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis in the United States and went on to develop the tests now used to diagnose the disease and the current treatment regimen. High priority research directions include the study of drug allergy, occupational immunologic lung disease, improved allergen immunotherapy, allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, severe asthma, venom anaphylaxis, chronic urticaria, also known as chronic hives, and rhinosinusitis. Asthma—one of the most common chronic conditions in the nation and currently on the rise in the United States—has always been a major focus of our efforts. Currently, we are using mouse models of asthma to investigate the mechanisms of inflammation that lead to asthma.
Your Partnership with Us
Through their philanthropy and commitment, caring and generous individuals are helping us achieve our research and teaching missions each day. Private support accelerates the pace of progress by providing the necessary resources to retain distinguished faculty, recruit talented fellows, and spearhead compelling new research initiatives in the Division. Gifts help create endowments for professorships and fellowship training, fortify our research and educational programs, support laboratory and equipment needs, and provide discretionary funds for special needs.
Clinical Research: Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology Clinical Research Unit
For more information about giving, please contact:
Maureen A. Mizwicki
Senior Associate Director for Major Gifts
Office of Medical Development
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Rubloff Building, 9th floor
420 E. Superior Street
Chicago, Illinois 60611-0764