After many years of wondering what genetic risks yield food allergies, a study in association with the human genome involving a combined group of 1500 German and American children with such allergies took place. Researchers analyzed millions of SNPs or single nucleotide polymorphisms, which are genetic deviations, for all the subjects and compared them to the controlled group.
In order to make sure these allergies were legitimate and not just sensitivities, food challenges were completed with each participant. A food challenge is a risky experiment in which the child eats the allergen in a hospital and they wait for a reaction to take place. The difference between a food sensitivity and an actual allergy is that a sensitivity involves a rash, itchy throat or small reaction. An allergy leads to a larger reaction like diarrhea, vomiting, or at worst, anaphylaxis.
The study found that there are 5 genetic risk loci for food allergies. In addition, this research also showed that “Four of them show a strong correlation with known loci for not only atopic dermatitis and asthma, but also for other chronic inflammatory diseases like Crohn's disease and psoriasis as well as autoimmune disorders.”
A gene cluster on chromosome 18 known as SERPINB is now considered to be a location directly related to food allergies. This plays a role in the skin and mucous membrane of the esophagus which connects to allergies “In that they play a major role in ensuring the integrity of the epithelial barrier function.”
Four out of the five risk loci are associated with all allergies while only one- The Human Leukocyte antigen region is associated with peanut allergies. For me, I find it to be personally interesting because I was born with a severe peanut allergy. With this new information, researchers are able to pinpoint the area that could be causing this allergy and learn to prevent it. Doctors believe that this study will lead to a better method of food allergy testing and prevention.
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