Friday, September 30, 2022

Scientists are sending free lab-made bacon to people who developed a meat allergy from tick bites to try to understand the strange disorder

  • Alpha-gal syndrome is relatively new, tick-borne Allergies For red meat and animal products.
  • The molecule involved in allergies is what causes humans to reject the animal organ transplant,

For some people, a bite by the tiny lone star tick could mean the end of bacon and barbecue forever.

Alpha-gal syndrome (AGS) is a tick-borne illness that can look like a sudden-onset red meat allergy. People who’ve never had a meat problem before reported that just one bite of pot roast sent them to the emergency room, and they didn’t relate tick Until then.

The syndrome is relatively new to the medical world, with the first 24 official cases of AGS described in 2009, but an increasing number of cases have been reported in Eastern and Central America over the past decade.

Scientists do not yet understand how or why some people with AGS become ill from the bite of a specific tick species, while others go away without recovery (or with a different tick-borne illness). But they have found an innovation that could improve the quality of life of people who suddenly have to abstain from meat.

The answer may lie in the muscles and fat of genetically modified pigs, which were initially developed for organ transplants, Sarah Zhang wrote recently for The Atlantic. For months now, RevivCor, the biotech company behind the first pig-to-human heart transplant, has been sending other specialties pork The products – think bacon, ham and chops – are free for AGS sufferers to understand the roots of this strange disorder.

Genetically modified pigs lack molecule that triggers allergies

Pigs are one of several mammal species that contain alpha-gal, a sugar molecule that sets them apart from humans and other primates.

Most humans can digest pork, beef, or lamb loaded with alpha-gal with no problem, but something about a lone star tick bite rallies the immune system in an unprecedented response to a marker. Some people with AGS are so sensitive that trace amounts of alpha-gal in dairy or gelatin, or even meat smoke, can cause a severe allergic reaction.

Alpha-gal is also involved in the rejection of animal-to-human organ transplants, as it alerts the immune system that the tissue has come from a different species. So when scientists set out to create a pig that could be used as an organ donor, they created a herd of genetically alpha-gal-free pigs.

The pigs used for the groundbreaking pig-heart transplant in January and separate attempts to transplant pig kidneys into brain-dead patients require several other genetic modifications to reduce the chance of rejection. But for people with AGS, just one change in the animal’s genetic code can make a life-changing difference.

The pigs were approved by the FDA as both food and medicine.

When North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler learned of Revvicor’s work with genetically modified pigs, he threw himself into obtaining food and Drug Administration-approved alpha-gal-free pork, he told The Atlantic. told. He said his AGS got in the way of his barbecue-adjacent duties as diagnostics commissioner, but his position and experience helped him navigate the complicated approval process.

The GallSafe Pig was officially approved two years later in December 2020, a relatively quick timeline. Since then, Revivicor has been sending free samples of GalSafe pork to people with AGS who choose to order forms. According to a news release from the FDA, the company plans to sell the meat by mail-order instead of in supermarkets.

Troxler told The Atlantic that genetically modified pork was normal for him. Reaction from others with AGS was mostly positive, Zhang wrote: No one had an allergic reaction to the modified meat, and people generally enjoyed the samples.

However, genetically modified pork cannot solve all the challenges that come with AGS diagnosis. Many people with the syndrome have to change their lifestyles, avoiding restaurants with potential cross-contamination and even checking ingredients labels for pill capsules that may contain animal products. But GalSafe pigs could also be a starting point for alpha-gal-free medical products, opening up a world of options for people with AGS.


Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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