Genetically modified eggs could revolutionize the way we address allergies, particularly egg allergies, which are prevalent among children. In a groundbreaking study, researchers at Hiroshima University have successfully used genome editing technology to create chicken eggs that may be safe for allergy sufferers to consume. This article explores the research findings and the potential impact of genetically modified eggs on allergies.
Understanding Egg Allergies:
Egg allergies are among the most common allergies in children and can be triggered by various food products, including vaccines. These allergies arise due to the immune system’s overreaction to the proteins found in eggs. While allergies to both egg white and yolk can occur, egg white allergies are more common. Fortunately, many children outgrow their egg allergies before reaching adolescence.
Widespread Presence of Eggs in Food Products:
Eggs, egg powder, and dried eggs are surprisingly present in numerous food items, such as breaded and battered foods, Caesar salad dressing, crepes and waffles, ice cream, candy, meatloaf and meatballs, marshmallows, and marzipan. Moreover, egg-based technology is commonly used in the production of most flu vaccines. The widespread use of eggs in various products poses challenges for individuals with egg allergies.
Genome Editing Technology: TALENs:
The researchers from Hiroshima University employed a genome editing technology known as Transcription Activator-Like Effector Nucleases (TALENs) to modify chicken eggs. TALENs are artificial enzymes designed to cut DNA at specific sequences, initiating the repair mechanism within cells.
Advantages of TALENs Over Other Gene Editing Technologies:
Compared to other gene editing technologies, such as CRISPR, TALENs offer specific advantages. While CRISPR may lead to unintended mutations or “off-target” effects, TALENs were engineered to address these concerns. Off-target effects could potentially generate mutant variants of the problematic ovomucoid (OVM) protein, causing continued allergic reactions.
TALENs and OVM Protein Knockout:
Using TALENs, the researchers successfully knocked out exon 1, a specific protein-coding region, in the hen’s RNA. This alteration resulted in eggs devoid of the troublesome OVM protein, which comprises approximately 11% of all proteins found in egg white. Subsequent testing confirmed the absence of OVM or mutant variants of the protein in these modified eggs.
Promising Results and Safety Evaluations:
The modified eggs exhibited no abnormalities and contained no traces of the OVM protein or mutant variants. Although whole genome sequencing indicated mutations, they did not impact the protein-coding regions. While further testing is necessary to confirm the eggs’ non-allergenic properties, the researchers are confident that these eggs are less allergenic than regular eggs.
Future Research and Clinical Trials:
The next phase of research aims to evaluate the physical properties and processing suitability of OVM-knockout eggs. Furthermore, clinical trials will be conducted to confirm their efficacy in reducing allergies. The researchers remain committed to advancing this study towards the practical application of allergy-reduced eggs.
Genetically modified eggs created using TALENs offer a potential solution to address allergies, specifically egg allergies, prevalent among children. The successful removal of the OVM protein, a common trigger for allergic reactions, presents promising results. Further research and clinical trials will determine the suitability and effectiveness of these modified eggs. The implications of this study could lead to a significant breakthrough in alleviating allergies and improving the quality of life for allergy sufferers.