ALLERGY UPDATE

New Rice Works as Antihistamine

Scientists in Japan have developed a genetically modified strain of rice that blocks allergy symptoms such as itchy eyes, runny nose, and sneezing. The rice serves as a vaccine and is modified to contain small doses of proteins that provoke allergic reactions in people to desensitize them. Following a successful trial using monkeys and mice, humans are the next frontier. “I’d like to try this GM rice in people in the near future,” says researcher Fumio Takaiwa of Japan’s National Institute for Agrobiological Sciences. The rice was developed to alleviate allergy symptoms among people allergic to Japanese cedar pollen—about 20 percent of the Japanese population. If the GM rice vaccine is successful in the treatment of human pollen allergies, the scientific principles could easily be extended to other allergens, Takaiwa says, opening up the door for other genetically modified food vaccines.