Peanut Discoveries: Genetic Mapping and Allergy Causes

After five years, an international group of agricultural scientists has successfully mapped the genetic code of the peanut. The results of the Georgia-based study give scientists around the world an opportunity to unlock some of the genetic potentials of the peanut plant.

The Peanut Genome Consortium consists of a group of scientists from the U.S., China, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, India, Israel, and several countries in Africa.

This groundbreaking discovery allows scientists to now find beneficial genes in peanuts to use in creating new peanut varieties. These chosen traits can lead to greater yields, reduced losses, lower production costs, improve nutrition, and better flavor.

The research began in 2012 when the U.S. peanut industry urged The Peanut Foundation to begin a research program with an aim to map the genetic code of the peanut plant. Thus, the International Peanut Genome Initiative (IPGI) was granted $6 million to fund the research. IPGI is the largest research project ever funded by the industry.

Peanuts are considered a staple in diets across the globe as well as being a key ingredient in food products that treat severe acute malnutrition.

Because of the popularity of peanuts, peanut farmers exported over 350,000 metric tons of peanuts as of 2013, according to the USDA.

“Mapping the genetic code of the peanut proved to be an especially difficult task, but the final product is one of the best ever generated,” said Steve Brown, executive director of The Peanut Foundation (IPF). “We now have a map that will help breeders incorporate desirable traits that benefit growers, processors, and most importantly, the consumers that enjoy delicious and nutritious peanut products all over the world.”

Another peanut discovery involving peanut allergies was recently made as well.

Researchers from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City claim they have identified the genes that are involved in allergic reactions to peanuts.

They have found six genes that activate hundreds of others when an allergic reaction occurs. The researchers examined gene expression before, during, and after an allergic episode.

They also found cell types and biological processes associated with acute peanut reactions.

“Given the number of kids affected, it is important for us to learn as much as we can about peanut allergy, especially since so much is still not known about it,” explained Dr. Supinda Bunyavanich, an associate professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The scientists hope the results of this discovery will enable researchers to have a better understanding of how the allergy works. This could potentially lead to discoveries on prevention and treatment methods.

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