Identified: 6 Genes that Contribute to Peanut Allergies
A study published in Nature Communications at the end of 2017 has identified 6 genes involved with children’s allergic reactions to peanuts. Unlike many other studies, which compare the physiology of those with allergies to those without allergies, this investigation involved comparisons between when an individual was experiencing an allergic reaction and when that individual was not experiencing such a reaction. The advantage of this strategy was that the researchers, located at Mount Sinai in New York, could observe specific changes in gene expression that occurred during allergic reactions to peanuts.
The experiment was performed on 19 children with peanut allergies. On one day, the children ingested incremental amounts of peanuts every 20 minutes until they ingested 1.044 grams of peanuts or until an allergic reaction occurred. On another day, children did the same thing but ingested oat powder, which should not cause an allergic reaction. During the process, children were unaware of whether they were eating peanuts or oat powder.
To monitor changes in gene expression, the researchers drew blood samples from the children before they ingested each product, during their ingestion, and again afterwards. They then performed a technique known as RNA sequencing that allowed them to see which genes and which cells became selectively activated during allergic reactions. They found that certain genes because active only during allergic reactions and could potentially explain the inflammation that occurs during allergic reactions. The findings from the 19 children were consistent with data from another 21 subjects.
This important study not only helps to reveal how peanut allergies work but could also lead to target candidates for therapeutics. It is unclear whether other food allergies – and allergies to other types of substances – may involve similar genes and mechanisms, but future research should help clarify these issues. With more knowledge of the details of different allergies, treatment options should improve.