MadSci Network: Genetics
Query:

Re: Would it be possible to genetically engineer a hypo-allergenic peanut?

Date: Sat Nov 20 19:55:11 1999
Posted By: Steven Seefeldt, Staff, Crop protection/weed science, AgResearch
Area of science: Genetics
ID: 941038842.Ge
Message:

To answer your first question - To genetically engineer a hypo-allergenic peanut, one would first need to know what compound(s) in the peanut is(are) causing the problem [there are quite a few that have been identified]. If it were just one major protein, then it should not be too difficult. A problem may arise however, if the protein is important for the peanut plant. Many proteins have very specific functions and a lack of the protein may cause the plant to not manufacture important products, or to not be able to defend itself against some bug or disease.

For your second question - Basically the body responds to some compound or compounds in the peanut and tries to fight it. Antibodies are formed and battle begins. Below are a couple of web sites that have some beginners information on what food allergies are all about and some definitions.

Some introductory information:
http://www.oma.org/phealth/peanuts.htm

Good source of definition of allergies:
http://www.haps.nsw.gov.au/education/infosheets/foodallergy.html

Your third question - Once you have reacted to an allergen, then there are medications that you can take to reverse the reaction. The problem with these is that if you are not having the reaction and you take the medication (because you know you are going to eat peanuts), the medication can be fatal. So, you only take it when you need it - itís not fatal then, it just reverses the cascade of reactions.

Your last question - Who knows what causes the sensitivities? There are all kinds of theories and opinions about it. Some people react and some donít. Iím not even going to try and hazard a guess with this, other than there appear to be a bunch of causes and whole range of sensitivities.

You might find the next web address very interesting. It is the peanut industries response to the sudden concern of peanut allergies. There is an email address. If anyone is going to spend money to find a cure or develop a hypo-allergenic peanut, it will be the peanut industry.
http://www.peanutbutterlovers.com/allergies.html


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