Featured Research

NC A&T and NC State Team Up to Reduce Complications from Peanut Allergies

January 06, 2016

Scientists at the NC Research Campus (NCRC) in Kannapolis, NC  are collaborating on a USDA grant to develop a hypoallergenic peanut flour that the food industry will be able to use to decrease the incidence of complications from peanut allergenicity.

Scientists at the NC Research Campus (NCRC) in Kannapolis, NC have teamed up to develop a hypoallergenic peanut product designed to reduce the incidence of complications from peanut allergenicity.

peanut allergenicity

Image credit theodysseyonline.com

Approximately three million people in the United States live with mild to severe allergies to peanuts and tree nuts. A study conducted by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) showed the number of children living with a peanut allergy tripled between 1997 and 2008. Peanuts, peanut oils and peanut proteins are in hundreds of foods such as baked goods, candy and even sauces and soups.

To address the abundance of peanuts in food products and the rising incidence of peanut allergies,  North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T) Center for Excellence in Post-Harvest Technologies and the NC State University (NCSU) Plants for Human Health Institute, both at the NCRC, are collaborating on a $500,000, three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entitled “Retraining the immune system; mitigating allergic responses using hypoallergenic peanut protein-polyphenol aggregates.”

One aim of the grant is to create hypoallergenic flour that the food industry can use in place of ingredients such as peanut flour.

The grant introduces a new approach to peanut allergen research conducted at both universities. In 2014, NC A&T licensed its patented post-harvest technology to Greensboro-based Alrgn Bio to develop and market a reduced allergen process to food companies to help them make peanut-based products safer. The current grant relies on a different process that examines allergens from a therapeutic standpoint.

peanut allergenicity

Leonard Williams

“NC A&T is continuing to build its capacity in peanut allergen research, and we are extremely pleased to be able to explore a new approach to what is for many people, a dangerous, and even life-threatening issue,” said Leonard Williams, PhD, director of the NC A&T center, who is leading the study. Assisting Williams is Research Scientist Rishipal Bansode, PhD, who studies polyphenols and their health benefits, including their ability to block fat absorption from foods.

Also in 2014, Mary Ann Lila, PhD, director of the NCSU center, and her research team created and patented stable, peanut-protein-polyphenol aggregate particles. Nathalie Plundrich, Lila’s PhD student, optimized development of these particles that reduce the allergic reaction peanuts normally produce.  Although developed for oral immunotherapy, the particles have the potential to be incorporated into hypoallergenic peanut-containing foods.

peanut allergenicity

Mary Ann Lila

The joint teams of scientists are working to identify polyphenols from a variety of sources ranging from peanut skins to cranberries and complexing them with allergenic peanut proteins. The goal is to create the most effective granular peanut-polyphenol aggregate that is stable and dry and can be tested in animal and human clinical trials.

“We have a really promising technology and a lot of interest from industry, and now we can perform the tests to confirm its ability to reduce peanut allergenicity,” Lila said.


Learn more about the NC A&T Center for Excellence in Post-harvest Technologies and the NCSU Plants for Human Health Institute.

Read more featured research. View scientific publications.

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