Of all the childhood allergies, an allergic reaction to eggs is one of the most common. Typically, reactions can include wheezing, nausea, headache, stomach ache, and hives. In extreme cases, however, anaphylactic shock can result, which can itself sometimes lead to death. Eggs are difficult to avoid, too - they find their way into many foods that might not seem particularly "eggy," and are even used in flu vaccines. Needless to say, for some time now, scientists have been working on making eggs safe for everyone. A team from Australia's Deakin University is now claiming that they're well on the way to producing not just hypoallergenic eggs, but the chickens that lay them.
The vast majority of egg allergy-sufferers are sensitive to four of the 40 proteins contained within egg whites. The Deakin team is working on extracting those four proteins, "switching off" the allergenic parts of them, then reintroducing the now-non-allergenic proteins back into the egg. The chicken subsequently born from that egg should in turn lay hypoallergenic eggs.
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"We are not producing genetically modified chickens as part of this research, we are simply modifying the proteins within the egg whites to produce chickens which lay allergy-free eggs," explained the project leader, Adjunct Professor Tim Doran.
It is hoped that the three-year project will pay off in an allergy-free flu vaccine within five years, and consumable hypoallergenic eggs within five to ten years.
Previous projects, such as one conducted by German and Swiss chemists in 2008, have looked at ways in which regular eggs could be treated in order to make them safe for consumption by allergy-sufferers. Others have cloned the allergen genes, but this project is reportedly the first one that is attempting to render the proteins harmless.
Source: Deakin University