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  • Scott Adams

    Can Gene Editing Make Wheat and Peanuts Less Allergenic?

    Scott Adams
    3 3
    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      Recent revelations that just eight foods cause nine out of every ten food allergy reactions have given researchers a target for efforts to produce less allergic foods.


    Image: CC BY 2.0--National Institutes of Health (NIH)
    Caption: Image: CC BY 2.0--National Institutes of Health (NIH)

    Celiac.com 02/10/2021 - Wheat, peanuts, milk, eggs, tree nuts, fish, crustacean shellfish and soy account for 90 percent of food allergies in the U.S. Imagine if we could just remove the offending allergens from our food. What would that even look like?

    Armed with the list of offending foods, researchers are using electrophoresis, CRISPR and both traditional and engineered breeding techniques to develop less allergenic varieties of the offending foods. Successfully breeding low allergen varieties could lead to hypo-allergenic varieties in the future.



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    Researchers are currently focused mainly on developing less allergenic varieties of wheat and peanuts, says Sachin Rustgi, a member of the Crop Science Society of America, which studies how breeding can be used to develop less allergenic varieties of these foods. 

    One of the challenges to producing less allergenic varieties is that the culprit in most food allergies is not a single actor, but a group, a conspiracy of allergens, as it were. 

    Gluten contains many potentially offending proteins, while peanuts contain 16 different proteins recognized as allergens.

    The cells that trigger the production of these proteins are contained within different genes, so effectively neutralizing that production signal means figuring out how to disrupt different parts of wheat and peanut DNA.

    “When we started this research, a major question was whether it would even be possible to work on a characteristic controlled by so many genes,” says Rustgi.

    Gene Editing Targets Many Genes

    But recent improvements in CRISPR gene-editing technology allow researchers to target many genes at once, and the approach has shown early promise. 

    Rustgi has already managed to create a new wheat strain that is safe for people with celiac disease. The new wheat strain relies on two enzymes spliced into the DNA: one from barley that attacks gluten; and another from the bacterium Flavobacterium meningosepticum.

    Lower Allergens Via Cross Breeding

    Now, Rustgi and his team are testing wheat and peanut varieties to find those that are naturally less allergenic than others. They are hoping to cross-breed these low-allergenic with crop varieties that have desirable traits, such as high yields or pest resistance.

    “Disrupting the gluten genes in wheat could yield wheat with significantly lower levels of gluten. A similar approach would work in peanuts,” says Rustgi.

    Targeting One Gene

    A third approach targets gluten regulation in wheat cells. Research has shown that just one cell functions as the “master regulator” for many gluten genes. Think of it as the key that starts the gene engines. By disrupting the master regulator, researchers hope to reduce amounts of gluten the wheat produces.

    Figuring out ways to reduce allergen levels in these eight foods can potentially render them safe to consume for people with food allergies. Certainly, safe hypo-allergenic wheat would be a major step forward for millions of people with celiac disease. Making similar progress with peanuts and potentially with other allergens would be a game changer for people with food allergies. 

    Read more at: laboratoryequipment.com

    Edited by Scott Adams

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    31 minutes ago, Guest Okie said:

    But without gluten, bread products wouldn't have the same density and texture.

    Unless the gluten were altered such that it retained it's density and texture and it's binding qualities minus the peptides that affect celiacs and others with gluten problems. That is the question.

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    Even with alterations in proteins, grains (wheat) and peanuts are high in lectins which damage the intestinal lining.  The above mentioned allergen foods are high in glyphosates and other (herbicides).  Egg & dairy are gluten cross-reactors and interfere with T4 to usable T3.  Since developing celiac with (yeast, dairy) cross-reactors, I have often wished that I could survive without eating, period!

    Once the damage occurs forget foods with preservatives & leavenings.  Why-oh-why did scientist have to "mess" with wheat grain in the first place?  It is now a fact that over 40% of the US population has some form of gluten sensitivity.  The damage has been done,  so all that is left is to study how to alter the genetic makeup of of either the plant or the human.  This is all so sad, so sad.

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    I heard of a local wheat farmer who is only planting heritage seeds.  Could these be less damaging to the intestinal lining of Celiac patients?  I'm 2 years into this and crave a burger bun that doesn't taste and feel like a mouthfull of starches.  The same with pizza crusts and pie crusts and pastries and "bread".

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    One of the "theories" behind what appears to be the growing prevalence of celiac disease is tied to the genetic manipulation of wheat down through time to produce strains of wheat that have more gluten.

    But listen to your own question. You're asking about eating a variety of wheat that is "less damaging" to the intestinal lining. Are you willing to settle for any damage just to satisfy your cravings?

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    8 minutes ago, trents said:

    One of the "theories" behind what appears to be the growing prevalence of celiac disease is tied to the genetic manipulation of wheat down through time to produce strains of wheat that have more gluten.

    But listen to your own question. You're asking about eating a variety of wheat that is "less damaging" to the intestinal lining. Are you willing to settle for any damage just to satisfy your cravings?

    No I'm not willing to do that.  Everytime I think of going off the diet I think of how I'll feel for 2-3 days and the limitations in my life, like needing to be close to a lavatory....and not leaving the house.  No, not worth it.  Thanks for your reply...I'm getting my second Covid-19 vaccination today and am sticking to a clear liquid diet today just to be safe...I need to drive 40 miles.

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  • About Me

    Scott Adams was diagnosed with celiac disease in 1994, and, due to the nearly total lack of information available at that time, was forced to become an expert on the disease in order to recover. In 1995 he launched the site that later became Celiac.com to help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives.  He is co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of the (formerly paper) newsletter Journal of Gluten Sensitivity. In 1998 he founded The Gluten-Free Mall which he sold in 2014. Celiac.com does not sell any products, and is 100% advertiser supported.


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