A group of geneticists from around the world, known as the International Peanut Genome Initiative (IPGI), have been working extensively together to finally sequence the full genome of the peanut. Director of the Applied Genetic Technologies in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of Georgia – Scott Jackson – serves as the chairman of the IPGI.
As a result of this research being made available to scientists and researchers globally, some interesting breakthroughs have been made.
Researchers from The University of Western Australia (UniWA) joined together with the IPGI initiative to identify the specific genes in peanuts that are responsible for sometimes fatal allergies in humans. By manipulating these genes, a prevention of an allergic response within peanut allergy suffers is believed to be close.
By decoding the DNA sequences within peanuts, scientists were able to identify the key genes that trigger allergic response. Of particular relevance were the genes within the transcription factor family known as S1Fa, of which 126 relevant genes were identified. Through extensive analysis a unique combination of these genes is believed to play a role in the allergic response.
This interesting discovery may have other benefits, including an increase in crop production. Since peanuts are a primary food source around the world, they are valued as one of the most economically significant crops in both developed and developing nations. One of the countries with the highest production and likewise highest incidence of peanut allergies is Australia. It is believed that over 3% of the population there suffers from a deadly allergic reaction to peanuts unless medical treatment is quickly provided. This was one of the reasons that prompted research by UniWA.
According to Professor Varshney, the Research Program Director at UniWA, the discovery brings allergy sufferers a step closer to consuming genetically modified peanut species that do not contain the genes associated with a deadly allergy response. Still, much remains to actually implement these findings and to see if they work in test models before real world benefits can be provided.
Study Source: PNAS