Here’s a scary statistic: One in 13 children now suffers from a nut allergy, a more than 50 percent increase over the past five years. But with nut allergies on the rise, it hasn’t gotten any easier to treat people who are allergic to nuts. Sure, an attack could be quelled by an EpiPen, but truly “curing” someone of their allergies is actually still far off. That’s why scientists with the USDA are working on curing the nuts instead of the patients, according to NPR.
Nut allergies occur when immunoglobulin, an antibody in our immune system, binds to the nut’s protein. Scientists are working on modifying the shape of the protein so our immune system can’t recognize it. Basically, if it works, the severity of nut allergies would be significantly decreased, because our immune system would be trained not to overreact to the allergy-causing part of the nut.
Christopher Mattison, a molecular biologist at the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, and his team of researchers have been testing this with cashew nut protein extracts with positive results, but there’s still a long way to go before the results can be transferred to the grocery store aisle.
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Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter@JoannaFantozzi