New York: If you cannot savour the taste of cashews as it may trigger an allergic reaction, this may soon change.
Scientists are now developing a method to process cashews — and potentially other nuts — that could make them safer to eat for people who are allergic to them.
“Clinical trials to test immunotherapy are underway but we are approaching it from an agricultural perspective rather than medical. Can we change the food, instead of treating the person, so we can eliminate or reduce severe reactions?” asked Chris Mattison, a researcher with the agricultural research service branch of the US Department of Agriculture.
Mattison’s team is looking at ways to modify proteins in tree nuts and peanuts (which are legumes) that trigger an immune response in people who are allergic.
The response is launched by antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE) that recognise and latch onto the proteins.
“Changing the shape of the proteins makes it harder for IgE to find them,” Mattison noted.
For this, Mattison used compounds that are “generally regarded as safe (GRAS).
These are substances that are accepted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in food and pharmaceuticals.
“We found that the GRAS compound sodium sulfite can effectively disrupt the structure of a couple of the cashew allergens,” Mattison suggested.
The researchers have done different tests that reduced IgE binding to the proteins when they were treated with sodium sulfite.
For those with food allergies, responses to offending products can range from mild itching in the mouth or skin to life-threatening anaphylaxis that makes it hard to breathe.
The team presented their work at the ongoing 248th national meeting and exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society being held in San Francisco till Thursday.