External view of an Osedax specimen
Discovery of the new molecular tract, which secretes calpain14 enzyme, could lead to research on a cure for food allergies. [Picture Representation]Greg Rouse, Martin Tresguerres

Researchers at the Nature Genetics have discovered a new tract inside the human esophagus, which could possibly open up avenues for more research and treatment of the different forms of food allergies that people face.

This tract, however, is molecular in size and structure, requiring a few couple more years before a cure for food allergies could be found. This tract, or pathway, is mainly responsible for causing Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE), according to the Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

EoE is triggered by an allergic reaction to certain food substances, which the cells are hypersensitive to. This trigger is mainly caused by an over-accumulation of white blood cells in that region.

The researchers at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital found that though this tract is molecular in structure, it may not be found in every human being. The study found that this is a genetic condition, caused by the gene CAPN14.

An enzyme is encoded in the esophagus by CAPN14, which is a part of what causes the disease, according to Dr Marc E Rotthenberg, MD, director of the Center for Eosinophilic Disorders at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital. It is believed that the disease process, calpain14 can be subdued by targeting it with drugs. Hence, the researchers are currently trying to find a drug that could serve this purpose.

"In a nutshell, we are trying to run cutting edge genomic analysis of the patient's DNA as well as gene and protein analysis to explain why people develop EoE," said Rotthenberg. "This is a major breakthrough for this condition, and gives us a new way to develop therapeutic strategies by modifying the expression of calpain14 and its activity. Our results are immediately applicable to EoE and have broad implications for understanding eosinophilic disorders as well as allergies in general."

Bioinformatics in the computer helped Rotthenberg and his team to delve deeper into the research, studying around 2.5 million different genetic variants in thousands of individuals. This study showed that not all individuals had EoE, thereby allowing researchers to identify the susceptibility of the CAPN14 gene.

The scientists analyzed around 130 tissues from the human body, and were quite surprised to find their desired results in the esophagus.

These results have opened up a new avenue into finding the cure for the enzyme that causes food allergies, according to Rotthenberg. There are already certain compounds that check the activities of the calpain14 enzyme. However, they believe that they need to find the main function of this enzyme within the body, before blocking its activity.