Research

The division has been focused on four research themes over the last several years:

  • Sinus disease
  • Immune response to rhinovirus infection
  • Tick bite-induced meat allergy
  • Eosinophilic esophagitis

In its research and clinical care in these and other areas, as well as in its training program, the division’s approach is highly interdisciplinary. A good example is the Sinus Disease Clinic, run jointly by Allergy’s Larry Borish, MD, and Otolaryngology’s Spencer Payne, MD. They, along with Allergy faculty member John Steinke, PhD, maintain an active research program in the mechanisms and treatment of sinus polyp formation. Fellows from Allergy and residents from Otolaryngology are thus provided with a unique cross-training experience, in a clinic specifically focused on sinus disease and jointly staffed by Allergy and Otolaryngology. This kind of cross training is characteristic of the Allergy fellowship generally: fellows must pass board exams in either Internal Medicine or Pediatrics in the first year, and they see both adult and pediatric allergy patients throughout the two-year training period.

Rhinovirus research — investigating the causes of, and treatments for, the common cold — is similarly interdisciplinary, involving faculty from Allergy (Medicine), Pediatrics and the Carter Immunology Center. Allergy faculty are able to perform rhinovirus challenges in human subjects and follow the immune response over nearly a month — the only academic center in the U.S. currently performing such long-term investigations. Enrollment and care of rhinovirus research subjects is a source of significant pride for both Allergy and Pediatrics faculty, and this area will continue to be a pillar of Allergy’s research program.

The division is increasingly known for its novel discoveries and expertise related to red meat allergy, and our allergy clinics are seeing a growing number of patients with this food allergy who are seeking out treatment at UVA. A collaborative research effort between division faculty members and Loren Erickson, PhD, of the Carter Immunology Center is exploring the hypothesis that bites from ectoparasitic ticks cause this allergy.

Our allergy clinics have also seen a sharp rise in patient referrals for eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) — both adult and pediatric cases. The disease, which is characterized by elevated eosinophils in the esophagus and accompanied by symptoms such as acid reflux and difficulty swallowing, is typically co-managed by clinicians from the Divisions of Gastroenterology and Allergy; to facilitate this collaboration, Allergy has launched a combined pediatric EoE clinic, staffed by Allergy, Gastroenterology and Pediatrics faculty members. A similar combined clinic is planned for adults.

Faculty Grants

The division has steadily increased its total research funding over the past five years. with most of the research dollars coming from the NIH, and smaller grants from foundations and industry.

Larry Borish
  • MD-INMD Allergic Disease in Neighbors of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations
  • 5R01AI057438-09 Interplay Between LTE4/LTE4 Receptors and IFN-y with Mast Cells and Eosinophil
Thomas Platts-Mills
  • 109320 The Fetal And Childhood Environment, Oxidative Balance, Inflammation and Asthma
  • 5U01AI100799-02 An Evaluation of Treatment with Omalizumab to Improve the Asthmatic Response
  • 5R01AI020565-30 Dust Mite, Cockroach and Cat Allergens in Asthma
Judith Woodfolk
  • 5R01AI052196-09 – Immune response to Cat: Regulatory & Effector T Cells
  • 5R01AR059058-04 – Regulation of TSLP Receptor Expression and Function in Eczema in Mice and Man
  • The Differentiation and Function of CD4+ Th2 Cells During Allergen-Induced Asthma