Pamela Guerrerio, M.D., Ph.D.

Chief, Food Allergy Research Unit

Major Areas of Research

  • Identification of genetic disorders associated with the development of food allergy and related conditions
  • Investigation of the key cellular and biochemical pathways critical in the development of tolerance to food antigens using human and murine models
  • Development of novel therapies for food allergy

Food allergy has become a major public health problem in the United States. There is no cure, and little is known regarding the factors that account for the rising prevalence and severity of this disease. The overall goal of the Food Allergy Research Unit is to understand the key genetic, immunologic, and biochemical pathways that lead to the development of food allergy and how they can be manipulated for therapeutic benefit. We aim to achieve this goal using a multifaceted approach with studies involving both patients and mouse models of their diseases. Our current efforts are focused on the following three main areas.

Genetic diseases associated with the development of food allergy and other allergic conditions

We have recently shown that patients with Loeys-Dietz syndrome (LDS), an autosomal dominant disorder caused by mutations in genes encoding the receptor for TGFβ, exhibit a high prevalence of food allergy, asthma, eosinophilic esophagitis, and other allergic conditions. By studying LDS and other genetic disorders associated with defects in genes required for TGFβ signaling (e.g.,SMAD3TGFB2SKI), we can achieve greater insight into the key cellular and signaling pathways that regulate allergic inflammation. This information may have tremendous therapeutic implications not only for patients with these rare genetic conditions but also for the general population of patients who suffer from allergic diseases. Efforts are also ongoing to identify additional cases of severe food allergy inherited in a familial/syndromic fashion that will allow us to identify novel genes and pathways that drive the development of this and related disorders.

Environmental and immunologic factors that influence the development and severity of food allergy

Compelling evidence supports a role for both genetic and environmental factors in the development of food allergy, and we are interested in understanding how these two variables may interact in the pathogenesis of this disease. Our lab is also studying why only some patients who have IgE to foods experience an allergic reaction when they eat the food, and we are working to identify immunologic markers that can predict the severity and persistence of food allergy.

Novel therapies for the prevention and treatment of food allergy

A major goal of the Food Allergy Research Unit is to apply the information learned from the studies described above toward devising new prevention and treatment strategies for patients with food allergy. By achieving a greater understanding of the key environmental, immunologic, and biochemical pathways that drive the development of food allergy, we will be able to develop novel interventions that are based on a refined understanding of disease pathogenesis.

Dr. Guerrerio graduated with a B.S. degree in biology from the University of Iowa and entered the Medical Scientist Training Program at Johns Hopkins University, where she completed medical school and a Ph.D. in human genetics. She also did her residency in pediatrics and fellowship in allergy and immunology at Johns Hopkins. She subsequently joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins and was the recipient of the 2011 ARTrust Faculty Development Award from the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology. In 2014, Dr. Guerrerio was appointed chief of the Food Allergy Research Unit.

Photo of Dr. Guerrerio's research group.

FARU, 2017 (left to right)​

Top row: Katherine Weissler, Ph.D. (Post-doctoral Fellow), Mathilde Turfkruyer, Ph.D. (Visiting Post-doctoral Fellow), Jessica Herilla, B.S. (Biologist), Phillip Dugan (Research Support Services Technician), Jayden Bowen, B.S.

Front row: ​​Marjohn Rasooly, CRNP (Nurse Practitioner), Pamela Guerrerio, M.D. (Unit Chief), Ph.D., Rekha Jhamnani (Clinical Fellow), M.D., Hyejeong Bolan, M.S.N. (Nurse Study Coordinator)​

Gorelik M, Narisety SD, Guerrerio AL, Chichester K, Keet CA, Bieneman AP, Hamilton RG, Wood RA, Schroeder JT, Frischmeyer-Guerrerio PA. Suppression of the immunologic response to peanut during immunotherapy is often transient. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2014 Dec 24. Epub ahead of print.

Schroeder JT, Bieneman AP, Chichester KL, Keet CA, Hamilton RG, MacGlashan DW, Wood RA, Frischmeyer-Guerrerio PA.Spontaneous basophil responses in food-allergic children are transferable by plasma and are IgE-dependent. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013 Dec;132(6):1428-31.

Frischmeyer-Guerrerio PA, Guerrerio AL, Oswald G, Chichester K, Meyers L, Halushka MK, Oliva-Hemker M, Wood RA, Dietz HC.  TGFβ receptor mutations impose a strong predisposition for human allergic disease.Sci Transl Med. 2013 Jul 24;5(195):195ra94.

Keet CA, Frischmeyer-Guerrerio PA, Thyagarajan A, Schroeder JT, Hamilton R, Steele P, Boden S, Burks W, Wood RA. The safety and efficacy of sublingual and oral immunotherapy for milk allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2012 Feb;129(2):448-55, 455.e1-5.

Frischmeyer-Guerrerio PA, Guerrerio AL, Chichester KL, Bieneman AP, Hamilton RA, Wood RA, Schroeder JT. Dendritic cell and T cell responses in children with food allergy. Clin Exp Allergy. 2011 Jan;41(1):61-71.

Visit PubMed for a complete publications listing.

Content last reviewed on February 9, 2017