A recent breakthrough in understanding the cause of a rare, hard-to-treat allergic disorder has been made by a group of research institutions that include the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI). The discovery was reported in the journal Nature Genetics.

The allergic/immune condition causes inflammation of the esophagus, usually from consuming foods such as dairy products, eggs, soy and wheat. The condition can cause infants and toddlers to refuse food and hinder their development. Older children may have recurring abdominal pain, vomiting and trouble swallowing, while teenagers and adults typically have difficulty swallowing. Food may also become stuck in the inflamed esophagus, creating a medical emergency.

The study found that EoE is triggered by the interaction between epithelial cells, which help form the lining of the esophagus, and a gene called CAPN14. It identified a marker that can be used to measure the activity of the disease, say the study’s authors. This could replace the current use of endoscopy, which is often impractical.

The EoE findings, which included genomic and protein analyses of 736 patients who participated in the research, give researchers a better understanding of why people develop EoE disorders and allergies in general.

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