Scientists are using pulsed light to remove allergens from peanuts in the hope that most people will be able to eat them safely.
If allergens can be cut from 150 milligrams of protein per peanut to below 1.5 milligrams, 95 percent of people with peanut allergies would be safe, researchers say.
Eliminating all peanut allergens is a challenge, because doing so may risk affecting texture, color, flavor, and nutrition.
The work was conducted in a laboratory setting, says Wade Yang, assistant professor of food science at University of Florida. He hopes to eventually conduct clinical trials on animals and humans.
Out of the lab
Researchers will next see if the allergic antibody in the serum of peanut allergy patients will still bind with the residual allergy protein from the refined peanut products and see if the refined peanut extract elicits skin-test reactions in peanut allergy patients.
Finally, researchers will conduct a double blind, placebo-controlled test to see if patients develop allergy symptoms after eating the refined products.
“I am pleased to see their work is progressing well,” says Shih-Wen Huang, professor emeritus of pediatrics and head of the Pediatric Allergy Clinic at University of Florida. “However, more challenges are waiting until the final products are accepted from the public, especially the patients with peanut allergies.”
Two years ago, Yang used the pulsed light technique to remove up to 90 percent of the allergic potential from peanut protein extracts. He’s now testing the process on the peanut itself.
“This process proves that pulsed light can inactivate the peanut allergenic proteins and indicates that pulsed light has a great potential in peanut allergen mitigation,” he says.
About 1.9 million people, or 0.06 percent of US residents, are allergic to peanuts, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.
Reactions can range from skin rashes to anaphylaxis, which can be fatal. Currently, the best way for those allergic to peanuts to stay safe is to avoid them. Many people carry epinephrine injectors that help offset their allergy symptoms until they reach a hospital.
In the latest study, published in the journal Food and Bioprocess Technology, Yang and his colleagues applied the pulsed ultraviolet light technology to whole peanuts.
Peanut processing usually starts from whole-peanut roasting, and roasted peanuts are then packaged to sell as whole peanuts or made into peanut butter. “The latest study moves one step closer to the actual production,” Yang says.
Yang used the pulsating light system—two lamps filled with xenon, two cooling blowers, one treatment chamber with a conveyor belt, and a control module—to direct concentrated bursts of light to modify the peanut allergenic proteins. That way, human antibodies can’t recognize them as allergens and begin to release histamines.
Histamines create allergy symptoms such as itching, rashes, and wheezing. The pulsing light reduces the allergenic potential of the major peanut proteins Ara h1-h3.
Source: University of Florida