Hypoallergenic foods: Genetic engineering could help prevent 30,000 US ER visits annually

peanut allergy child

Hortense Dodo has genetically engineered a hypoallergenic peanut. But she isn’t targeting people with peanut allergies. Not directly, anyway.

Her quest began in the 1990s, when she became close to a family whose young child had a very severe peanut allergy. …. When she graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a PhD in molecular biology, she saw an opportunity: If she couldn’t fix the allergy, perhaps she could fix the peanut.

The modern food industry is a story of fixes. We engineered mass production — of crops, of livestock, of processed foods — to nourish people by the millions …. But it’s mostly been up to the minority of people with potentially lethal allergies to avoid foods that might trigger a severe reaction. We didn’t try to fix foods that caused allergies, in large part because we didn’t think we needed to.

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As Dodo was figuring out how to use RNA interference technology to silence the genes responsible for the proteins that trigger the majority of allergic reactions in sufferers in the early 2000s, the number of sufferers in America tripled …. Today, as many as 2.5 percent of US children have an allergy to peanuts, and that number is rising.

Researchers from Northwestern’s allergy and asthma team found that insurance claims for anaphylactic episodes related to food allergies increased 377 percent between 2007 and 2016 …. food allergies are responsible for more than 30,000 emergency department visits annually.

Read full, original article: The case for re-engineering our food supply

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