According to Food and Chemical Toxicology and reported by New Atlas, researchers from Hiroshima University have achieved a significant breakthrough in addressing egg allergies, one of the most common allergies among children. Using cutting-edge genome editing technology called TALENs, scientists have successfully developed chicken eggs that may be safe for individuals with egg allergies to consume.
Egg allergies are primarily caused by an overreaction of the immune system to proteins in eggs. Although egg white and yolk allergies can occur, egg white allergies are more prevalent. In many cases, children outgrow their egg allergies by adolescence. However, severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, can pose life-threatening risks and require immediate medical attention.
Remarkably, eggs and egg derivatives are found in a surprising array of food products, including various baked goods, dressings, ice cream, candies, and even flu vaccines, produced using egg-based technology. This widespread presence of eggs in the food industry further exacerbates the challenges individuals with egg allergies face.
The Hiroshima University researchers employed TALENs, a genome editing tool specifically engineered to target and modify DNA at precise locations to address this issue. By targeting a specific RNA segment, exon 1, in hens, the researchers successfully knocked out the gene responsible for producing the complex protein called ovomucoid (OVM). OVM constitutes approximately 11% of all proteins found in egg white.
The scientists conducted extensive tests on the eggs these genetically modified hens laid to evaluate their safety and allergenic properties. The results were highly encouraging. The OVM-knockout eggs exhibited no visible abnormalities and contained no traces of OVM or mutant variants of the protein. Although whole genome sequencing indicated the presence of mutations, these alterations did not affect the regions responsible for protein coding.
The study’s lead author, Ryo Ezaki, emphasized the significance of these findings, stating, “These results indicate the importance of safety evaluations and reveal that the eggs laid by this OVM knockout chicken solve the allergy problem in food and vaccines.” However, given the potential risks associated with even trace amounts of OVM, further testing is required to confirm the non-allergenic properties of these eggs. Nevertheless, the researchers expressed confidence that the genetically modified eggs are less allergenic than regular eggs.
The following research phase will evaluate the physical properties and processing suitability of these OVM-knockout eggs. Additionally, clinical trials will be conducted to confirm their efficacy in reducing allergic reactions. The research team is committed to advancing their studies and working toward the practical application of these allergy-reduced eggs. If successful, this breakthrough in genome editing technology could revolutionize the food industry and provide a safe solution for individuals with egg allergies, significantly improving their quality of life.