A current study suggests that scientists from Hiroshima University in Japan may have found a way to remove allergens that eggs usually contain. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, it is reported that 2% of children develop an egg allergy early in their lives. Of these children, 70% outgrow it early within their adult lives. Hen eggs are one of the leading common allergies in children, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, with symptoms ranging from hives to an intense drop in blood pressure.
Children with hen egg allergies are subjected to a very small diet, as most foods have egg processed within them. And not only do food products use processed egg, but also vaccines. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common vaccine that includes egg proteins is the flu shot and nasal spray flu shot. The CDC also reported that over 80% of pediatric flu deaths are in unvaccinated children.
Some of the allergens were able to be dissipated by direct heat; however, ovomucoid (OVM) is a protein that withstands the heat. OVM makes up a whole 11% of allergies and can still pose life-threatening symptoms.
Gene editing can remove OVM
Platinum TALEN is an advanced gene-editing technique that has been used to discard unwanted genes in food, like OVM.
This is exactly what scientists at Hiroshima University used to edit the OVM gene out of newborn chicks. “Among the major egg allergens, ovomucoid (OVM) is very stable against heat and digestive enzymes, making it difficult to remove physiochemically and inactivate allergens. However, recent genome-editing technology has made it possible to generate OVM-knockout chicken eggs.”
The chickens that resulted from this technique laid eggs that “did not express mature OVM protein.” The scientists’ efforts in determining whether the OVM-free eggs can cook like regular eggs before testing them in humans are critical to ensuring that the product is safe for consumption.
Benefits of food supply gene editing
In March of 2022, Bio.News reported that the use of gene editing could benefit both humans and animals. As Bio.News reported, “Using gene editing to speed up the traditional gains achieved by generations of cross-breeding can allow farmers to ‘help protect our food supply and create a more healthy, sustainable food system’ and to meet ‘global protein demand in a sustainable manner,’” according to Elena Rice, CSO of Genus PLC.
Alongside that, there has also been evidence of even higher-protein soybeans getting closer to releasing onto the market, all thanks to gene editing. In September 2022 Bio.News reported that Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) member Benson Hill, a pioneer in CRISPR gene-editing technology, announced a new partnership with global nutrition specialist ADM. According to the announcement, ADM will manufacture Benson Hill’s Ultra-High Protein (UHP) soybeans into food products produced at scale and sold commercially.
As gene editing technology continues to develop, it is likely that we will see more advancements in the development of allergen-free foods.