Identification of Major Cashew and Walnut Allergens
Cashews and walnuts are commonly used in snack foods and as an ingredient in a variety of processed foods, such as bakery and confectionary products. For those who are allergic to these nuts, consuming them can lead to reactions ranging from dermatitis to deadly anaphylactic shock. FSU researchers have identified specific amino acid sequences in walnut and cashew proteins that produce allergic reactions in humans.
Researchers have identified allergens in cashews, walnuts, pecans, almonds, chestnuts, and pistachios using serum from allergic patients to screen cDNA expression libraries. Once cloned and expressed, the offending proteins are subjected to epitope mapping techniques and mutagenesis to generate a hypoallergenic version. At the same time, researchers are developing polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies to tree nut allergens to be used by the food industry in testing suspected foods for contamination with allergens.
- Test for cashew and walnut allergies
- Generate vaccines for patients with nut allergies
- Development of genetic modifications of the proteins in cashew and walnut plants to generate hypoallergenic plants
- Previous methods use crude extracts for allergy testing and treatment
- Better defined reagents for testing and vaccination would reduce the risk of side effects
- Increase the reliability of allergy tests
- Hypoallergenic nuts would lessen health risk to allergy sufferers and reduce potential liability of food processors