Peanut allergies are on the rise

The stakes get higher with each new child diagnosed. 2% of our population has a severe peanut allergy, which means walking around in a world riddled with Snickers bars and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can be dangerous.

What can we do other than scrub our kitchens and crack down on the contents of brown bag lunches? Science. We can do science.

There are 7 identified proteins in peanuts that cause an IgE allergic reaction.

When someone is having an allergic response to peanuts one of the seven proteins cross links with IgE antibodies that bind to immune system cells. This in turn, causes inflammation that causes the allergic reaction. A single peanut can contain up to 200mg of these proteins, a hundred times more than enough to cause an allergic reaction.

Can we make a hypoallergenic peanut?

GMO to the rescue. Or at least we hope so. Scientists are fighting the battle to eliminate the peanut allergy on two fronts. It is technically more difficult to genetically modify the peanut than they originally thought, and anti-GMO groups scare away potential investors.

That could all change shortly due to CRISPR. And no, not crisper like we all love crisper apples. CRISPR – Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat, aka a big mouth full. CRISPR allows procaryotes adapt their immune system to viruses, and has been shown to be a cheap and easy gene editing system.

Chloe Gui is currently working on using CRISPR to edit out the 7 proteins that cause peanut allergies, but lacks funding to complete the research. With any luck, the hypoallergenic peanut will be on all the grocery store shelves in no time.