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One Notre Dame team is facing a different opponent--allergies

NOTRE DAME, Ind. -

Notre Dame has a different kind of team that’s winning on its own field—a field of science. It’s working to cure allergies so one day eating at tailgates won’t have to be dangerous.

“Anything I eat could possibly cause me to get really sick or possibly die,” said Notre Dame graduate student and researcher Peter Deak.

When you think of deadly diseases, cancer maybe even heart disease come to mind.

Not a bag of nuts…

But Peter Deak has spent his entire life fighting a grab bag of food allergies.

“They found out when I was one,” he said.

Now he’s in charge of a student team trying to get rid of them.

A team led by professor Basar Bilgicer.

“ What we are trying to do is understand the allergy and the allergens very specifically at the molecular level so that we can design inhibitors that will selectively inhibit only the molecules, the immune components that are responsible for the allergy response,” said Notre Dame professor Basar Bilgicer.

Let me put that in plain English for you.

When you have an allergic reaction, molecules are released in your body. The team at Notre Dame is trying to make a drug that can prevent the molecules from getting free.

If the research ends up working it may cure your food allergies. They’re using a proactive approach instead of a reactive one.

“The current allergy therapies only treat the symptoms of the allergic reaction after it already occurred, and they suppress the immune system non-selectively,” said Professor Bilgicer.

That means all your body’s defenses are down.

And for Professor Bilgicer, this research hits close to home.

“I am also a parent. I have two little girls, and one of them, actually my older daughter has a sun allergy,” he said.

So he’s all too familiar with what the doctor told Peter Deak’s mom when he was diagnosed.

“‘Oh he’s never going to have a normal life, and you’re going to have to worry all the time,’” recited Deak.

Bilgicer and Deak are working to create a world where parents don’t have to worry anymore—at least about food allergies.

“If I achieve that with any of my projects in my lab that’s ongoing right now, what else can I hope for? I mean, I’ll die happy,” said Bilgicer.
“It’d be really cool to say like, I had my mark on the world, and if I was able to make something to cure myself one day that’d be really cool, like I made that!” said Deak.

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