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Twin trials: How studying twins fuels research on allergies and asthma

image_0.img.476.highIt must be amazing to be a twin: You can have a friend for life and - if you so choose - help research (and people) everywhere. Research studies involving twins can help distinguish between the effects of genetics and the environment, and they have significantly contributed to the information we have on biological traits and diseases.

For that reason, the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research is seeking both fraternal and identical twins to help examine the increasing incidence of food allergies and asthma around the world. In a recent article, the center profiled two pairs of siblings who have already participated in research, including identical teen twins Anjali and Anushka:

As infants, they both got rashes after ingesting milk. When she was 1-year-old, Anushka had an anaphylactic reaction to cashew. As identical twins, they share the same genes, but, as they grew, it became evident that their allergies were diverging. Anushka developed an allergy to cats and had mild asthma, but Anjali did not. While both were allergic to garbanzo beans, Anjali reacted more severely than Anushka. By the age of 5, blood tests showed that both girls had outgrown their milk allergy, but were allergic to tree nuts and many types of lentils...

Due to their various allergies, both girls participated in a clinical trial of a medication at the center and completed immunotherapy, which involves being exposed to increasing doses of the allergen to retrain the immune system. More from the piece:

"We do everything together, and it was great having someone going through the same experience," Anushka shared.

"Before I completed the clinical trial, every time I ate out, I used to ask the chef so many questions about the ingredients. It was hard to enjoy eating out. I am now so much calmer when eating out and this has made a huge difference in my life," said Anjali.

"Being through the trials, we feel so much more in control and are no longer afraid to try new foods," said Anushka.

Previously: In human defenses against disease, environment beats heredity, study of twins shows, Twins update: Formerly conjoined twins strong and healthy and Participant in Stanford food-allergy study delves into lifestyle-changing research
Photo courtesy of Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy & Asthma Research

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