Scientists May Bring Relief to Peanut Allergy Sufferers
July 10, 2003
Americans reach for peanuts at baseball
games, picnics and in between meals. Savory and satisfying, peanuts pack a
nutritional punch in the form of protein, fiber, vitamin E, niacin and folic
acid. But not everyone can enjoy the popular legumes, for peanuts induce an
allergic reaction in 1.5 million Americans.
Now Agricultural Research Service
scientists are bringing hope to peanut-sensitive consumers in the form of a
hypoallergenic peanut. Soheila J. Maleki and her colleagues at the agency's
Southern Regional Research Center (SRRC) in New
Orleans, La., have found a peanut variety lacking one of the major peanut
allergens. If their search turns up another allergen-free variety, researchers
can cross-breed them to produce a safer nut.
Maleki's peanut allergy work is being presented today at a news conference,
by phone, hosted by the American Academy of
Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
To find a friendlier nut, scientists needed a diverse supply of peanut
plants to screen. So, SRRC researchers obtained 300 peanut varieties from a
collection at North Carolina State
University. Maleki and her colleagues then developed antibodies against the
three main peanut allergens to determine if any of the varieties were missing
the allergy-causing components. Using the ARS antibodies, they found what they
had hoped for: a peanut variety lacking a key allergen.
Varieties showing lower levels of allergens can be used in traditional
cross-breeding experiments to produce a hypoallergenic peanut plant. Along with
new peanut processing methods and vaccine development in the works, a cultivar
with reduced allergens could be the answer peanut allergy sufferers have long
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.