June 8, 2010

Altered Peanuts Could Be Key To Curing Allergy

Researchers are working overtime trying to put an end to the problems that peanuts can cause.

The scientists have managed to remove or reduce key proteins that can spark a peanut allergy.

The team said the resulting peanuts are not genetically modified but the product of conventional crossbreeding.

Peanut allergies are relatively common and usually cause breathing problems.

However, the most serious effect of this allergy can cause anaphylactic shock, potentially leading to death.

The peanuts are still at a fledgling stage, but if further experiments are successful they could be used widely to prevent the risks associated with production lines.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture helped to fund the experiment.

The key issue will be whether the peanuts missing these proteins will be able to produce naturally occurring seeds that contain the same reduced allergy potential.

Professor Soheila Maleki presented the findings were presented at a congress of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in London.

In theory, children who consumed these low-allergy peanuts would be less likely to become allergic to all peanuts. 

"And people that are already allergic would need to have a much higher dose before they suffered a reaction," Maleki, who believes the peanuts could be available within two to five years, told BBC news.

"In the case of accidental ingestion, there would be much less of a reaction."

These peanuts could also be deployed in immunotherapy, in which patients become "desensitized" to their allergy by taking a low dose of peanuts over a period of time.

Last year, a trial in Cambridge managed to cure a group of children this way.  Follow-up research is currently being conducted.


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