NC researchers make progress in developing allergy-free peanuts

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Peanut allergies can be deadly and the number of people who are plagued by allergies is on the rise, but scientists in North Carolina are working to make peanuts safe for everyone.

Scientists at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro believe they have found a way to make allergy-free peanuts .

“In that study the folks at A&T had treated the peanuts with a certain process to try to reduce the major peanut proteins,” said Michelle Hernandez, associate professor of pediatrics at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Pediatrics Division of Allergy and Immunology.

Hernandez is one of the researchers at UNC Chapel Hill testing the groundbreaking new nuts. She says they started out the process by doing skin testing.

“What they wanted to see was compared to regular peanut extract which is made up of numerous peanut proteins,” said Hernandez. “If the skin size was reduced, if it was less, it could mean that maybe their new product made people less clinically reactive to peanuts.”

Her research showed the skin size was significantly reduced in people allergic to peanuts.

“There are researchers here that have a mouse model for a peanut allergy. They can compare the treated product versus the untreated peanut product and they can then give it to the mice and see if they have anaphylaxis or an allergic reaction,” said Hernandez.

She says while the research does show a lot of promise, it’s still in the early stages.

“Years, yeah, this isn’t months away. This is years away because if they determine that the mice don’t have anaphylaxis, that they tolerate it, well, it will go through early phase human studies,” said Hernandez.

Hernandez says in order to do testing with humans the FDA would have to approve it, and then there would have to be three clinical trials.

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