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Epigenetics and Development of Food Allergy (FA) in Early Childhood

  • Hong, Xiumei1
  • Wang, Xiaobin1, 2
  • 1 Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center on the Early Life Origins of Disease, Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, 615 N. Wolfe Street, E4132, Baltimore, MD, 21205-2179, USA , Baltimore (United States)
  • 2 Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Baltimore, MD, USA , Baltimore (United States)
Published Article
Current Allergy and Asthma Reports
Publication Date
Aug 06, 2014
DOI: 10.1007/s11882-014-0460-6
Springer Nature


This review aims to highlight the latest advance on epigenetics in the development of food allergy (FA) and to offer future perspectives. FA, a condition caused by an immunoglobulin (Ig) E-mediated hypersensitivity reaction to food, has emerged as a major clinical and public health problem worldwide in light of its increasing prevalence, potential fatality, and significant medical and economic impact. Current evidence supports that epigenetic mechanisms are involved in immune regulation and that the epigenome may represent a key “missing piece” of the etiological puzzle for FA. There are a growing number of population-based epigenetic studies on allergy-related phenotypes, mostly focused on DNA methylation. Previous studies mostly applied candidate-gene approaches and have demonstrated that epigenetic marks are associated with multiple allergic diseases and/or with early-life exposures relevant to allergy development (such as early-life smoking exposure, air pollution, farming environment, and dietary fat). Rapid technological advancements have made unbiased genome-wide DNA methylation studies highly feasible, although there are substantial challenge in study design, data analyses, and interpretation of findings. In conclusion, epigenetics represents both an important knowledge gap and a promising research area for FA. Due to the early onset of FA, epigenetic studies of FA in prospective birth cohorts have the potential to better understand gene-environment interactions and underlying biological mechanisms in FA during critical developmental windows (preconception, in utero, and early childhood) and may lead to new paradigms in the diagnosis, prevention, and management of FA and provide novel targets for future drug discovery and therapies for FA.

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