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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Can Science Create Safe Wheat for People with Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity?

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 12/19/2012 - Can scientists create gluten-free wheat strains that are safe for people with celiac disease, and suitable for making bread? According to a team of researchers writing in the journal PNAS, the answer is 'yes.'

    Photo: CC--Dag Endresen.Gluten is a complex mix of proteins stored in kernels of wheat, barley and rye. Some, but not all, of these proteins trigger the immune reactions seen in celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.

    Scientists have already experimented with another method that involves sifting through various kinds of wheat and barley in search of types that contain little or no offensive gluten proteins in their grains.

    So far, researchers have found wheat varieties that lack some of the important allergenic proteins, but they have yet to find a variety that is completely safe for people with celiac disease.

    That fact led the research team led by Shanshan Wen of Washington State University in Pullman and colleagues, to try a new approach that focused on a key enzyme that helps to trigger a group of genes that produce the most reactive gluten proteins.

    To do this, they used a genetic engineering trick that eliminated the key enzyme altogether. The resulting seeds wheat kernels showed sharply lower levels of these reactive gluten proteins.

    The research team predicts that, with more more tinkering, they will be able to create a line of wheat that completely eliminates the problem proteins, and keeps the non-problem proteins in the wheat.

    According to their write-up, they feel that they have good odds of creating wheat that is safe for people with celiac disease, and suitable for producing good bread and baked goods.

    If successful, they will then begin testing the results in cell cultures, mice and gluten-sensitive apes.

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    It would have been nice if the scientists would have left grains alone to begin with, and hadn't been tinkering with them for the past fifty years or so. If they'd just left all the "ancient" grains alone--they wouldn't now have to "find" a grain that celiacs and gluten-intolerant people can stomach.

     

    Any time science tinkers with anything, it usually ends up that we pay a price for such tinkering.

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    Extreme caution is urged related to the use of genetic engineering to manipulate our food. The science is not precise. The genetically engineered foods we are currently eating are a contributing factor to the rise in autoimmune disease. Long term independent peer reviewed testing must be conducted before we introduce any genetically engineered food into our environment and our food supply.

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    I have high doubts I could eat it. Are they going to alter corn, rice and other grains that I get sick on? That does not remove the issue of cross contamination as well.

     

    I have doubts about this. All grains have a type of gluten in them, and I can't eat any of them. Are they going to alter milk so I can drink it as well? Or tomatoes and other foods?

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    I have high doubts I could eat it. Are they going to alter corn, rice and other grains that I get sick on? That does not remove the issue of cross contamination as well.

     

    I have doubts about this. All grains have a type of gluten in them, and I can't eat any of them. Are they going to alter milk so I can drink it as well? Or tomatoes and other foods?

    My next question would be, what about all the pesticides that are being used? I have been reading some articles lately that suggest that we are being poisoned by them. I haven't been diagnosed with celiac disease yet, but I have several of the symptoms. I would like to believe I don't have it, but common sense and doing my homework says I probably do. I am so overwhelmed with this whole process. I now worry about how dangerous the pesticides are that are being sprayed on the fruits and vegetables we are consuming. I can't afford to buy organic products continuously. Gardening seems the best solution, but is a big undertaking if you want to be able to can enough foods for a whole family. This is just a lot to take in and requires much patience and educating. God bless the person responsible for trying to help the rest of us fit into a world where not having the knowledge and resources is making us unhealthy. I am thankful for finding this site.

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    Extreme caution is urged related to the use of genetic engineering to manipulate our food. The science is not precise. The genetically engineered foods we are currently eating are a contributing factor to the rise in autoimmune disease. Long term independent peer reviewed testing must be conducted before we introduce any genetically engineered food into our environment and our food supply.

    I absolutely agree with you. I've been experiencing all kinds of health problems lately including sudden arthritis pain in every joint in my body. I had some allergy testing done and found out that I'm allergic to wheat, corn and soy. Coincidence? I don't think so, these are all genetically engineered grains. I felt much better when I stopped eating these grains and the arthritis pain is 80% better, but now found out that I have an autoimmune disease - Sjogrens as well as gastroparesis.

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    It would have been nice if the scientists would have left grains alone to begin with, and hadn't been tinkering with them for the past fifty years or so. If they'd just left all the "ancient" grains alone--they wouldn't now have to "find" a grain that celiacs and gluten-intolerant people can stomach.

     

    Any time science tinkers with anything, it usually ends up that we pay a price for such tinkering.

    Absolutely.

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    It would have been nice if the scientists would have left grains alone to begin with, and hadn't been tinkering with them for the past fifty years or so. If they'd just left all the "ancient" grains alone--they wouldn't now have to "find" a grain that celiacs and gluten-intolerant people can stomach.

     

    Any time science tinkers with anything, it usually ends up that we pay a price for such tinkering.

    I meant that I absolutely agree with you that science needs to stop tinkering with our food. The original wheat did not have the kind of gluten that is in our GM wheat today. If certain changes can't possibly happen in nature naturally there is a good reason for it. Splicing genes into or out of a food cannot be good.

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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 science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. 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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