A molecule which may protect against food allergy has been identified.
Interleukin-12 has been shown to be "missing" in mice which were bred to be allergic to peanuts.
The results published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggest that the molecule normally stops allergies to food developing.
The Institute of Food Research scientists said the findings offered a potential target for the prevention or treatment of food allergies.
In people who suffer from a food allergy, the immune system responds to a food protein as if it was harmful by producing antibodies. In the most severe cases individuals can suffer life-threatening reactions, including anaphylactic shock.
One of the most well-known food allergies is to peanuts. This problem is becoming increasingly common, affecting one in 70 schoolchildren.
There is currently no way to treat food allergy and the only way for sufferers to manage the problem is to avoid certain foods and make sure they have injectable adrenaline at hand.
Dr Claudio Nicoletti and colleagues had already done research which showed that special types of white blood cells called dendritic cells are important in helping the immune system decide on how to respond to foreign molecules.
They found that in allergic mice the dendritic cells are much longer lasting than normal, which over-stimulates the immune system.
Source - BBC