Why People With Meat Allergies Should Care About The First-Ever Approved Genetically Modified Pigs

Whether environmental or food-borne, allergies are definitely a frustrating thing to deal with. Food allergies, like those associated with meat products, can sometimes wreck havoc on a person's body. If you, or someone you know experiences, a meat allergy, specifically for red meats like cow, sheep, and pigs, you're actually allergic to a compound called Galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose (or alpha-gal for short), according to Healthline

So, what exactly is alpha-gal? Healthline states that it is a compound that is found in the cells of mammals like cows, sheep, and pigs (you know, sadly, all the ones that people like to eat). The report cites that the most common way of developing this allergy is through a lone star tick bite, which is something that's more common in adults than in children. But recent advancements with modified meat have been opening doors and possibly changing the game for those with meat allergies.

But, how exactly could people allergic to meat benefit from modified pig meat? The pig meat would be free of the alpha-gal compound, Business Insider explains.

The modified meat will serve several important purposes

Business Insider reports that a medical company named Revivicor Inc., a subsidiary of United Therapeutics, is behind the development of the pigs (Revivicor happens to have ties to PPL Therapeutics — the company that cloned Dolly the sheep in the 1990s). The Verge explains that the company developed these pigs so that its byproducts could be used in the production of medication, aid in tissue matter and organ transplants, and serve as a meat option that is safe to eat for people with red meat allergies. 

The Food and Drug Administration has even backed the development of the modified pigs named GalSafe (coined because it is free of the alpha-gal compound). In a press release, FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn called the modified pig meat a "milestone for scientific innovation." Due to their development, GalSafe pigs can be used to make medication like the blood-thinning compound heparin that is found in animal tissue. They can also be used in organ transplants, The Verge cites, allowing for full compatibility and a decent alternative for those with alpha-gal allergies.