From Discussions VOL. 10 NO. 3
The GM Crop Network: An Overview of the Environmental, Political, Economic, and Human Health Contexts Surrounding Bt Corn
Towards answering such questions, I have developed an individual research project which studies peripheral and mucosal immunity to the Cry1Ab protein expressed in Bt crops.
I have always had a curiosity for food, its connected disciplines, and how they collectively influenced health. And due to the lack objective, evidence-based information available to the lay food consumer and my interests in this subject, I aimed to create a project that could begin to pursue answers but also pose more intriguing questions regarding Bt crops.
The study I created investigates the interaction between the humoral adaptive immune system and the Cry1Ab protein, one member of the Bt toxin family. I hypothesized that due its bacterial origin and immunogenicity in animal models, the Cry1Ab protein is not seen as an innocuous food antigen, and is thus capable of overriding homeostatic oral tolerance mechanisms to induce an antibody response in humans. In order to test this hypothesis, I have created a highly sensitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) specific for the CryAb protein that will enable appropriate serological testing.
The primary aim of this study is to determine whether humans develop Cry1Ab-specific antibodies. Specifically, the study is interested in testing for the presence of Immunoglobulin G (IgG) and Immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibodies present in serum and intestinal secretions respectively. The goal is to correlate and compare the humoral response within the mucosal and peripheral immune systems, and thus answer questions regarding Cry1Ab immunogenicity in humans.
As we continue to incorporate these GM plants into the global food system, there is an increasing need for evidence-based research regarding such transgenic crops . We must realize the future of our environment and health is tied largely to both agriculture and food production methods. However, food is also central to the traditions many of us look forward to each year; food’s impact on culture, and therefore larger societal growth, must also not be forgotten. Going forward, it is vital that we consider the individual, public, cultural, and environmental aspects of food and genetically modified crops for a better tomorrow.
Alexander Razavi is a senior biochemistry, pre-medicine student. He has been working at the Center for Global Health and Diseases at the Case Western School of Medicine since August 2012. Alex’s interests in food as it relates to public health, medicine, and science have led him to start Case Western’s own Slow Food campus chapter as well as create an individual research project studying Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) crops. His research project involves studying systemic and mucosal humoral immunity to the Cry1Ab protein expressed in Bt crops, and in addition to pursuing his scientific laboratory goals, he would like to inform students and faculty about the multidisciplinary network surrounding genetically modified crops in general.
I would like to thank Dr. Christopher King, Dr. Indu Malhotra, Dr. Marianne Carey, and Alexander Barron for all of their support, mentoring, and guidance throughout the development of the project. We are grateful for the opportunity CWRU and SOURCE have provided through funding the project. In addition, I would like to thank Professor Mary Holmes for her everlasting support and encouragement; her SAGES class has inspired me to pursue food research avenues as they relate to individual and public health.
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