Grant of the month: $499,000 to Dr. Ahmedna for further work on peanut anti-allergen process

The Sponsored Funding Report for April:

N.C. A&T received 15 grants totaling $1.87 million in April.  The FY 2011 sponsored funding total stands at $42.11 million as of April 29.

One highlight of the month’s funding was $499,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, to Dr. Mohamed Ahmedna of the Department of Family and Consumer Services. Dr. Ahmedna is the director of the Center of Excellence in Post-Harvest Technologies, the N.C. A&T unit located at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis.

The project: Post-harvest processing of peanut and wheat products to reduce inherent allergens.

The issue:  Thousands of Americans suffer from food allergies, which cause 150-200 fatalities annually. Young children remain the most affected by food allergies, which have been on the rise for reasons that are not well understood. Peanuts and wheat are economically and nutritionally important crops associated with severe allergies. However, their ubiquitous use by the food industry makes it very hard for allergic individuals to find safe food choices, hence the need to reduce/eliminate allergens in them.

Abstract: We hypothesize that, under the right combination of physico-chemical and enzymatic processing conditions, food allergens can be reduced or inactivated through various mechanisms that target their vulnerabilities as proteins. Preliminary data obtained in our lab provide promising indication of the potential for this approach in peanuts. This proposal seeks to:

  1. Demonstrate the effectiveness of post-harvest processing of peanut and wheat with endopeptidases and physicochemical treatment in reducing the concentrations of target allergens,
  2. Confirm the reduction of allergic potential of treated products in patients through clinical testing, and
  3. Evaluate the sensory acceptability and quality of treated peanut and wheat products.

The most effective processing conditions (as judged by immunoassays) will be used to produce samples for confirmation of reduced allergenicity using basophil activation assays in leukocytes from allergic patients. Processing conditions that lead to minimum histamine release in-vitro will be used to process products for skin prick testing among allergic patients to confirm safety. Subsequently, sensory acceptability and quality of hypoallergenic products will be assessed and used as indicator of their commercial potential.

The complete list of grants received in April (xlsx file)

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