Food allergy: what do we learn from animal models?

Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2004 Jun;4(3):205-9. doi: 10.1097/00130832-200406000-00012.


Purpose of review: This review summarizes selected articles on animal models of food allergy published in 2003. The research areas that are covered include mechanistic studies, the search for new therapies, as well as screening models for hazard identification of potential allergens.

Recent findings: Novel treatment options of both prevention and therapeutic strategies have been reported with promising results. The induction of de-sensitization to food proteins was achieved by exposure to a mixture of recombinant food allergens and T helper 1 (Th1)-skewing bacterial components. Furthermore, research in animal models has provided new insights into the role of protein structure, digestion, and gut permeability in sensitization and tolerance induction to food proteins. The Th2 hypothesis of food allergy was tested in mouse strains, linking genetic susceptibility to sensitization with differential Th1-Th2 responses. In this context, the role of the liver in development of food antigen-specific Th2 cells, and the importance of costimulatory molecules in Th2 skewing were demonstrated. Finally, rodent models to predict potential allergenicity of novel foods have been further developed using different routes of sensitization.

Summary: Currently, several animal models of food allergy are used, including mouse, rat, swine, and dog. Continuing research in these models may elucidate the immunological mechanisms that underlie the sensitization and challenge phase of food allergy and may result in improved therapeutic options. Furthermore, the development of animal models to predict relative allergenicity of novel foods remains an important topic.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Food Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / metabolism
  • Food Hypersensitivity / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Interleukin-10 / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-4 / biosynthesis
  • Models, Animal
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism


  • Interleukin-10
  • Interleukin-4