Allergies and Genetics: What Role Do They Play?

    Tuesday, 18 March 2014 00:00  Blog

iStock 000000864463Medium-150x150If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you are not alone. Millions of Americans deal with the runny noses, itchy, watery eyes, and congestion due to an allergic response to pollen and other foreign bodies in the air. An allergic reaction is simply a negative response by your body’s immune system to an often harmless substance. Pollen, for instance, is in no way harmful to humans, yet millions of people each year are victims of its effects. But why do are so many people allergic to common substances such as these? An allergy doctor would say genetics are often to blame.

If a child has a parent with an allergy, they are 50% more likely to be allergic to that same substance. If both parents have allergies, this likelihood jumps to 70%. Not surprisingly, a study done to measure the likelihood of identical twins being allergic to the same substance (in this case peanuts) showed that 65% of the twins shared the allergy. Interestingly, though, the twins often manifested different reactions. For instance, one twin may develop a rash after contact, while the other twin could exhibit asthma-like symptoms.

Another study, done by the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, showed that genetics account for 81.6% of the risk of peanut allergy. An additional study, done by British researchers, claimed that this particular allergy is inherited up to 87% of the time. Clearly, genetics factor heavily when it comes to allergies. However, this curse might turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Because peanut allergy is so common, research is being done on the nut to see if its allergenic properties are also genetic. If so, genetic modification might be able to eliminate these factors to make a new and improved nut safe for everyone. Such advances in science speaks of only great things to come for allergy sufferers worldwide.

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