Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gluten Free Wheat?

It appears that Dr. Diter von Wettstein, a researcher at Washington State University, is currently attempting to make a gluten free wheat.  Yes, you read that right -- a gluten free wheat.  A full description of the project from his profile on WSU's website:

"Celiac sprue patients have to live with total abstinence from wheat, barley, rye containing food. Their painful erasure of the brushborder in the small intestine is caused by protein sequences (epitopes) in grain storage proteins that cannot be digested by stomach, pancreatic and intestinal enzymes and cause the autoimmune destruction of the brushborder. The great majority of these epitopes are located in wheat prolamin proteins called gliadins. A mutant has been identified that cannot synthesize these type of prolamins. The mutation prevents the transcription of the corresponding genes as it inactivates an enzyme that has to remove methyl groups from the DNA before these genes can be transcribed in the endosperm into messenger RNA for translation into protein. But the wheat High Molecular Weight glutenin type protein that alone determines baking quality is synthesized because it is transcribed and translated from genes that do not require de-methylation. We are therefore looking for these type of mutants to get rid of all the gliadins. Excellent bread roles were baked from flour lacking gliadins but with an addition of purified High Molecular Weight glutenin produced in fermenters by yeast containing the corresponding wheat genes. The dough had outstanding elasticity. Breeding of wheat suitable for celiac patients is pursued. "

Big thanks to my friend Isaac for sending this article along, which originally informed me about the research.

What do you think?  Would you eat a gluten free wheat?  I'm at a loss... echoes of an Environmental Biology course I took in college are ringing my head, reminding me that introducing something that isn't originally in nature (i.e. introduction of a non-native species into an ecosystem) may cause adverse reactions.  Then again, I could barely understand the above scientific jargon...

Do you love it or do you love it?
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"Researcher developing wheat for celiac patients"
Capital Press
By Matthew Weaver