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New Genetic Risk Factors Identified for Peanut Allergy

By Labmedica International staff writers
Posted on 25 Oct 2017
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Image: Whole genome genotyping arrays are an important tool for discovering variants that contribute to human disease (Photo courtesy of Megan Smolenyak, MBA).
Image: Whole genome genotyping arrays are an important tool for discovering variants that contribute to human disease (Photo courtesy of Megan Smolenyak, MBA).
Peanut allergy develops in early life and is rarely outgrown. Roughly 1% of Canadian adults and between 2% and 3% of Canadian children are affected, and the symptoms can be severe and even life threatening.

A new gene associated with peanut allergy has been revealed, offering further evidence that genes play a role in the development of food allergies and opening the door to future studies, improved diagnostics and new treatment options.

An international team of scientists collaborating with those at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC, Canada) scanned more than 7.5 million genetic locations in the DNA of 850 people with peanut allergy and nearly 1,000 people without it, through a genome-wide association study (GWAS), to search for markers that might be linked to food allergy. They recruited the peanut allergy participants from the Canadian Peanut Allergy Registry. The team also conducted a fresh analysis of results pooled from six other genetic studies of populations in North America, Australia, Germany, and the Netherlands. Genotyping of 1,974 individuals (987 cases, 987 controls) was conducted on the Illumina Omni 2.5M+Exome 8v1.1 chip.

The scientists reported that their study is the first to associate the EMSY, BRCA2 Interacting Transcriptional Repressor (EMSY) locus with food allergy, and these findings suggest that the gene plays an important role in the development of not just food allergy but also general allergic predisposition. The gene, called c11orf30/EMSY (EMSY), is already known to play a role in other allergy-related conditions, such as eczema, asthma, and allergic rhinitis. The team also found evidence that five other genetic locations might be involved.

Denise Daley, PhD, an associate professor and senior author of the study, said, “Food allergy is the result of both genetic and environmental factors, but there are surprisingly few data regarding the genetic basis of this condition. The discovery of this genetic link gives us a fuller picture of the causes of food allergies, and this could eventually help doctors identify children at risk.” The study was published on November 10, 2017, in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

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