Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Department of Pediatrics

Allergy and Immunology Research

The division aims to become a nationally recognized center for clinical, epidemiologic and translational research for asthma, food allergy and primary immunodeficiency with the goals for better understanding of their pathogenesis, the contributory factors that lead to health disparities and the identification and evaluation of novel treatments for these disorders. Rajesh Kumar, MD conducted a large-scale study of risk factors for atopy in Latino asthmatic children, including ancestry, ethnicity and environmental factors. He has also published this year on asthma among African American subjects. Jacqueline Pongracic, MD continues productive collaborations with Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH on food sensitization, and with numerous colleagues on asthma in children.

Inner City Asthma Consortium

Established in 2002, the Inner City Asthma Consortium (ICAC) consists of 10 research centers (one of which is Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, PI Jacqueline Pongracic MD), an administrative center and a data coordinating center.

The goals of this Consortium are to develop and carry out a long-range scientific plan to reduce asthma severity and prevent asthma among inner-city children, and to identify the mechanisms involved in the immunopathogenesis of asthma in these populations. Specifically, the Consortium has designed and conducted (1) clinical trials to evaluate the safety and efficacy of promising immune-based therapies to reduce asthma severity; (2) research to delineate the underlying mechanisms of such therapies as an integral part of the clinical trials; (3) clinical studies on the immunopathogenesis of asthma onset, progression and severity; and (4) studies to develop and validate surrogate/ biomarkers to measure disease stage, progression and therapeutic effect.

At Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, we have been involved in the following ICAC studies:

Overview of Food Allergy Study

All division faculty participate in the Lurie Children's Food Allergy Study (PI: Xiaobin Wang and co-PI, Jacqueline Pongracic). This study was launched in 2005 in response to the rapid rise in childhood food allergy and the lack of effective prevention and treatment. Food allergy (FA), defined as an immunoglobulin (Ig) E-mediated hypersensitivity reactions to food, is emerging as a major clinical and public health problem not only in the US, but also worldwide. Although accurate epidemiologic data are limited, FA affects approximately 5-8% children and 1-4% of adults. FA is also the most common cause of emergency room visits for anaphylaxis. This study is designed to find answers to some fundamental questions: What are the causes of food allergy? How can food allergy be predicted and prevented? Are there alternative or better treatments for food allergy?

Study Design for Chicago Cohort: This is a family-based study, which intends to enroll a total of 1,000 food allergy affected families. The large sample size is necessary in order to have sufficient statistical power to study over one million genetic markers and hundreds of variables that can reflect prenatal and postnatal environmental exposures. We will examine FA by type, severity, and persistency to understand its commonality and heterogeneity. We will also study food allergy related conditions such as eczema, allergic rhinitis, and asthma. These conditions often co-exist with food allergy. It is possible that these allergic conditions may share some common causes.

Asthma Health Disparities Research

Rajesh Kumar, MD has ongoing research projects in the areas of the biological bases of asthma health disparities particularly as they relate to genetic studies in minority populations. He is currently involved in a number of cohort based studies including: The genetic sub-study of CHIRAH, CARDIA, the CARe network, and GALA 2. He also carries out work on the genetic associations of lung function. He is funded by the NHLBI.

For more specifics on the research activities being conducted in the Division of Allergy and Immunology, please visit the division page on the Stanley Manne Children's Research Institute website.