Ongoing Research Funded by DHF

Role of Mast Cells (an Immune Cell) and Food-Specific IgE Antibodies in Abrupt Food-Induced Response of the Esophagus (FIRE) in Adults with Eosinophilic Esophagitis

2021  | Disease: Esophageal DiseasesEosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE)

Principal Researcher: Joshua Wechsler, MD

Co-Principal Researcher: Ikuo Hirano, M.D. | 

Principal Investigator: Joshua Wechsler, MD

An allergic/immune condition, the inflammatory process of eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) leads to chronic swallowing problems and food impaction. These symptoms develop when large numbers of white blood cells called eosinophils build up in the inner lining of the esophagus. EoE is on the rise in the United States, contributing to more than $1.4 billion in health care costs annually. Recently, EoE patients have been found to experience abrupt food-induced responses of the esophagus (FIRE). Symptoms occur immediately after the ingestion of foods that don’t typically trigger eosinophilic inflammation. Preliminary data from Dr. Ikuo Hirano of the Northwestern Medicine Digestive Health Center suggests these patients are sensitized to specific allergy-related antibodies directed at FIRE-associated foods. An antibody linked to food allergies, IgE typically involve mast cells—immune cells present within tissues such as the esophagus that are increased in patients with EoE. Dr. Wechsler’s study will examine esophageal biopsies to determine whether IgE is present on mast cells and whether increased IgE+ mast cells are increased in patients with FIRE when compared to those without FIRE symptoms.

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