New research is providing more evidence that genetics play a role in the development of peanut and other food allergies.
Canadian researchers, working with others in Australia, the U.S. and the Netherlands, have pinpointed a new gene associated with peanut allergy, called c11orf30/EMSY.
The EMSY gene was already known to play a role in other allergy-related conditions, including eczema, asthma, and allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever.
The Canadian researchers say their study is the first to associate the EMSY gene with a food allergy. They say their findings, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, suggest that EMSY also plays an important role in “general allergic predisposition.”
For their study, the researchers analyzed DNA from 850 people with a peanut allergy recruited from the Canadian Peanut Allergy Registry and compared them to nearly 1,000 people without a peanut allergy.
The research team scanned more than 7.5 million genetic markers across the DNA of study participants. It also analyzed results from six other genetic studies involving American, Australian, German and Dutch populations.
The researchers found that the EMSY gene was associated with an increased risk of both peanut allergy and food allergy. Five other gene locations are also suspected to be involved in peanut allergies.
“Food allergy is the result of both genetic and environmental factors, but there are surprisingly few data regarding the genetic basis of this condition,” study co-author Denise Daley, a University of British Columbia professor, said in a news release.
“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.”