Monday, November 21, 2005

Genetically Modified Peas Cause Allergic Response

Pisum sativum

For the first time scientists have detected an immune response to proteins coming from a plant genetically modified to be pest resistant.

For almost a decade scientists at Australia’s national research organisation, CSIRO, have been developing a genetically modified version of the Field Pea (Pisum sativum) that is resistant to the pea weevil Bruchus pisorum, which lays its eggs on the pea pods causing significant crop damage in developing countries. They inserted a gene from the common bean which produces a protein capable of killing pea weevil pests.

However, when the scientists at CSIRO tested the modified Field Pea by feeding it to laboratory mice they found the mice developed antibodies specific to the protein built by the newly inserted gene. When the mice where later exposed to the purified protein through injection or inhalation via a "multiple immune challenge" procedure designed to determine if the immune system is tolerant to a protein they showed a hypersensitive skin response, while the airway-exposed mice developed airway inflammation and mild lung damage. The damage was significant and surprising enough that the entire decade-long project Field Pea project was cancelled.

Paul Foster of the Australian National University in Canberra, who led the "multiple immune challenge" work points out that this result shows the need for improvements in screening requirements for genetically engineered plants, to ensure comprehensive tests are carried out.

For more details see the original article from NewScientist.

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