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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Can Researchers Use Gene-Editing to Make Gluten-Safe Wheat?

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      Imagine wheat with the good baking qualities of standard wheat, but with the offending gluten proteins removed so it is safe for people with celiac disease. Will strict EU gluten rules permit it?

    Caption: Image: CC--Steve Jurvetson

    Celiac.com 02/11/2019 - Researchers have shown that CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology can be used to remove epitopes from gliadin protein in gluten. These molecules trigger the adverse immune response seen in people with celiac disease. However, will Europe’s strict GM rules prevent this discovery from being used to create new gluten-free products for people with celiac disease?

    Researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, and at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) in the UK, have shown that CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology can be used to remove epitopes from gliadin protein in gluten. Gluten contains an assortment glutenin and gliadin proteins. Most of these gliadins and many of the glutenins contain immunogenic epitopes that trigger an immune response in celiacs, but others do not trigger such a reaction. 

    As part of her PhD thesis, scientific researcher, Aurlie Jouanin, has shown that CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology can be used to remove certain epitopes that trigger celiac reactions.

    The research team did not remove all gliadin proteins from their wheat samples, which means that the wheat plants in this case were not safe for celiacs, but Jouanin found a way to spot both the genes that changed, and the ones that still required modification. Jouanin’s research suggest that it’s possible to remove just the gliadin epitopes that can trigger celiac disease.

    If just the offending epitopes can be removed, or altered, then the gluten proteins will not trigger the adverse immune response common in people with celiac disease, then it would be possible to make all kinds of products containing this safe gluten.

    Moreover, by allowing select, non-offending gliadins to remain in the bread, the result would likely be bread that is both safe for celiacs to eat, and which also has improved characteristics that are associated with traditional non-gluten-free bread.

    The result could be a win-win for people with celiac disease who are looking for improved gluten-free and gluten-safe great products. According to Bianca Rootsaert, director of the Dutch Coeliac Association, “gluten-free wheat would be a great improvement in the quality of life of celiac patients.”

    What do you think? Would you be excited to try products made from wheat that had been treated to remove celiac-triggering gluten proteins? Share your thought below.

    Edited by Jefferson Adams

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    No way would I do this.  They need to spend the money on healing humans. I am a farmer and wheat is a complete waste of time to grow, and they are getting patents on wheat by controlling the genetics and then they own our seeds.  Growing vegetables is better and I can always grow corn, which is native to the Americas and gluten free. 

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    This would be great for eliminating cross contamination in families that have both celiac and non-celiac, and seems like it would help reduce the number of people with celiac genes that get triggered to full -blown disease...I would say yes, because the more approaches to dealing with this disease, the better.

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    This message from Health Canada did not provide a convincing argument.  There were no references.  There are a significant number of references that say it isn't safe.   I think you know that there has never been an exhaustive, long-term, dual blind study on the safety of glyphosate because nobody who is free of Conflicts of Interest, will finance it.  However, if there is in fact such a study now, then you should post it here.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, science, and advanced research, and scientific methods. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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