Increasingly detailed information on pediatric asthma and sensitisation to food
Professor Mika Mäkelä’s research group studies pediatric asthma and severe food allergies. The aim is to develop better methods for the diagnostics and treatment of allergic diseases in children.
The new information will also contribute to cooperation between healthcare professionals and families when making treatment decisions.
– The identification and diagnostics of pediatric asthma are still based on relatively vague deductions on symptoms. For this reason, we are also studying the pathophysiology of the disease, the onset of the disorder, in order to be able to choose the best possible treatment plans for different types of asthma, Mika Mäkelä explains.
HUS Skin and Allergy Hospital was the first Nordic centre to launch research into oral immunotherapy to foods in 2005. Researchers have since developed a distinction into mild and severe food allergies and sought new forms of therapy for the patients who are the most difficult to treat.
– The objective is to increase information related to asthma and food allergies to assist professionals in diagnostic decision-making but also in conjunction with the families. The more information we can provide on the treatment and progress of diseases, the better we can create a functional dialogue to support the implementation of therapy and to help children and their families cope, Mäkelä says.
The research group examines factors determining the permanent nature of the disease and its severity in tissues and in respiratory physiology. In terms of food allergies, the focus has so far been to develop diagnostics based on molecular-allergological definitions and sensitisation to food.
Asthma diagnostics in small children
The results of work completed by the group include, for instance, the asthma diagnostics method for small children which has been adopted in Finland.
– We have also shown that in infants and toddlers, the chronic and irreversible asthma-induced changes to the bronchial mucosa have not yet begun. This way it will be possible to consider therapies relatively calmly with the families.
One of the research group’s great achievements is also the development of methods for desensitization to food.
Thanks to desensitization, patients in whom food previously caused a sudden and severe general allergic reaction or anaphylactic shock, are able to enjoy this type of food daily without fearing harmful exposure.
Mäkelä’s research group’s activities were launched in 2000, and it has significantly expanded over the years. It currently includes 10 to 15 people. Most of them are pediatricians and pediatric allergologists. The majority of young researchers preparing their dissertation are planning a career as pediatricians. The group has strong competencies in pediatric allergology and clinical physiology. The group also cooperates with pediatric gastroenterologists and many laboratory fields.
Helsinki University Hospital Inflammation Center, Skin and Allergy Hospital and Helsinki University
Links to studies:
Component-resolved diagnostics demonstrates that most peanut-allergic individuals could potentially introduce tree nuts to their diet. Clin Exp Allergy. 2018 Jan 29. [Epub ahead of print].
Measurement of tidal breathing flows in infants by using impedance pneumography. Eur Respir J, 2017 Feb 15;49(2).
Burden of allergy diets in Finnish day care reduced by change in practices. Allergy. 2016 Oct;71(10):1453-60.
Health care resource utilization and characteristics of patients with eosinophilic asthma in secondary health care in Finland. Eur Clin Respir J. 2018 Apr 15.