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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

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

      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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      The genes that cause celiac in humans need to be edited out. Heck the one I got also causes Ulcerative Colitis which I got Diagnosed 2 years ago with and can cause diabetes and RA.

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    I would not be a test subject because I get sick for a whole month, but if it's proven to work I would try this.

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    59 minutes ago, BilliB said:

    No way would I try this. WHy are scientists so intent on pushing wheat onto people whom wheat makes unwell!

     

    My whole point with this, going gluten free was a 180 from a death bed and bucket list to slowly gaining my health back. I got nerve and brain issues with (scary). Heck going grain free and paleo (the diet of our ancestors we are genetically evolved to eat)....SO much better.

    Why spend millions of dollars trying to make a crop we should not be eating anyway safe for a niche market it makes deathly ill more so? WHY not use the money to try fixing humans? I mean we have enough genetic issues that need to be addressed like the genes that gave us this disease. In my case the gene reasonable is also the one for my uclerative colitis, and makes it likely for me to end up with RA and T1 diabetes. I want that edited out of my genome.

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    Wheat is one of the most versatile grains known (see all the stuff that has wheat in it and for all the different reasons) and a huge player in areas where not much else will grow and thrive, so I understand why it gets the attention it does. 

    I'd be very interested in seeing where this research goes.  I don't know enough about genetics to know the role these epitopes play, but if they've evolved into an unnecessary part of the organism and/or the wheat can be altered without problems it would be a boon for Celiacs and all the other associated folks with gluten issues.  I'd be particularly grateful because I'm discovering more and more that the 20ppm threshold is probably way too high for me... . :(

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    Well said, Ennis.

    The sad reality is more money can be made selling wheat with reduced gliadin to hipsters and celiac patients with no willpower, than can be made from fixing broken humans. 

    If this frankenwheat kills us slowly, they dont give a crap.

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    Don't find much merit in this idea.  Humans weren't designed to eat grasses.  Besides, in America, hybridized dwarf wheat is often sprayed with glyphosate to cure it for harvesting, so this crap can't possibly be made safe to eat anyway.

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    On 2/14/2019 at 9:30 PM, Ennis_TX said:
      The genes that cause celiac in humans need to be edited out. Heck the one I got also causes Ulcerative Colitis which I got Diagnosed 2 years ago with and can cause diabetes and RA.

    Ugh...so sorry!

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    2 hours ago, etbtbfs said:

    Don't find much merit in this idea.  Humans weren't designed to eat grasses.  Besides, in America, hybridized dwarf wheat is often sprayed with glyphosate to cure it for harvesting, so this crap can't possibly be made safe to eat anyway.

    Not to stir up a hornet's nest, but this is a point that I think really needs clarifying:

    https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/news/2019/01/statement-from-health-canada-on-glyphosate.html

    Glyphosate has been demonized with no good science behind it - sadly, the good science is getting no press and now is most likely going to be too late to change minds.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams 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 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.

  • Related Articles

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 08/28/2013 - Researchers at Washington State University are 'very close' to developing celiac-safe wheat strains, says lead project researcher Diter von Wettstein.
    Rich Koenig, associate dean and director of WSU Extension, says the wheat project involves removing the gluten material that causes the adverse reaction in people who have celiac disease.
    Von Wettstein says that his team has developed wheat hybrids that have 76.4 percent less gluten proteins than conventional strains, and that the next step is to eliminate the remaining percentage.
    Von Wettstein is working two distinct angles on this project. The first approach uses genetic modification, while the seconds does not. He acknowledges that doing it without genetic modification "would be better…But in the end, if the only way to do this is through genetic modification of wheat, it could still be a major advancement for people who suffer from that disease."
    The projects may still take a while as von Wettstein works to identify, selectively silence and remove the responsible genes.
    One caveat is that even if the project is successful, the wheat may not produce flour suitable for baking, though Koenig says that producing wheat suitable for people with celiac disease would be, nonetheless, an "important subsection of wheat production"
    Funding for von Wettstein's research is coming from The National Institutes of Health and Washington State's Life Science Discovery Fund.
    Source:
    http://www.capitalpress.com/content/mw-Barley-071913-art

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 12/22/2015 - Kansas wheat farmers are funding genetic research to figure out exactly why some people struggle to digest wheat, and to try to produce an wheat-friendly alternative.
    The Kansas Wheat Commission has put $200,000 toward the first two years of the project, which intends to identify anything in wheat DNA that can trigger an auto-immune reaction in people with celiac disease.
    Ultimately, the project seeks to promote the development new wheat varieties that might be tolerated by celiac sufferers, and meet other gluten-free needs. This, at a time when the market for gluten-free goods has skyrocketed, driven partly by non-celiac sufferers who see such products as a healthier alternative, and is now worth nearly a billion dollars a year in just the US alone.
    People with celiac disease need to eat a gluten-free diet, avoiding anything containing wheat, rye, or barley. So far, researchers have identified about 20 protein fragments in wheat that trigger celiac reactions, but no one has identified all of them, or bred a variety of wheat that is safe for celiac sufferers to eat.
    Kansas researchers are hoping to be the first to establish a full screening of celiac-promoting proteins in wheat, then to develop a gluten-free wheat using traditional breeding methods.
    "If you know you are producing a crop that is not tolerated well by people, then it's the right thing to do," said the project's lead researcher, Chris Miller, senior director of research for Engrain, a Kansas company that makes products to enhance the nutrition and appearance of products made by the milling and cereal industry.
    Their plan however, has some skeptics. After reviewing the Kansas plan online, expert celiac researcher, Armin Alaedini, assistant professor of medical sciences at Columbia University and a researcher at the New York-based school's Celiac Disease Centre, said the plan may be "too simplistic," and ultimately fail to isolate all the toxic protein sequences that can trigger a celiac reaction.
    Alaedini added that the project may result in a less toxic wheat product that isn't completely safe for all celiac disease patients, and may be no better in terms of nutritional value or baking properties and taste than current gluten-free alternatives.
    So, what do you think about gluten-free wheat for celiac sufferers? Would you try it? Trust it? 
    Source:
    au.finance.yahoo.com

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 03/22/2017 - A new study published in the journal Food Chemistry shows that even the ancient varieties of wheat that have not been subject to hybridization, contain toxic epitopes that trigger adverse autoimmune response in celiac patients.
    What makes gluten toxic to people with celiac disease? Also, what is the relationship between various kinds of wheat and their celiac toxicity?
    To answer those questions, a team of researchers analyzed various kinds of wheat from several countries, all produced in the same agronomic year (2013-2014) at the Experimental Station at the Agronomic, Food and Biosystems School of Madrid.
    Their study focused on a specific set of proteins in gluten, called gliadins. Marta Rodríguez-Quijano, a researcher at the Technical University of Madrid and one of the writers behind the study, says that "gliadins have the greatest clinical effect against the innate and adaptive immune responses that lead to coeliac disease." However, the specific type of gliadins differ among the many varieties of wheat.
    The scientists assessed the presence of T-lymphocytes (immune cells that are related to celiac disease) in the various kinds of wheat) by using an antibody capable of recognizing toxic epitopes or antigenic determinants. Their data shows that the different varieties of wheat produce considerably different immune responses depending on the T-cells analyzed.
    Certain wheat varieties, such as the French "Pernel' T. aestivum ssp. vulgare L., have low toxic epitope content," explains Rodríguez-Quijano, which means that they are less likely to trigger a strong immune reaction in people with celiac disease.
    This study provides the scientific basis for using such epitopes to design and breed wheat products that are safe for people with celiac disease. A successful effort in this arena will help to "combat the poor nutritional and technological characteristics of gluten-free products and thereby contribute to improving patients' quality of life," says Rodríguez-Quijano.
    This researchers are not alone in their efforts to create wheat strains that are safe for people with celiac disease. A similar project is under way in Kansas, with researchers working with the University and industry support to evaluate wheat strains that may be suitable for people with celiac disease.
    Will the future mean safe wheat for people with celiac disease? Stay tuned for developments on this and related stories.

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 10/25/2017 - For people with celiac disease, eating gluten proteins from wheat, barley, and rye triggers an auto-immune response, and the accompanying physical symptoms.
    A team of researchers recently set out to engineer low-gluten wheat strains that also have low-reactivity for people with celiac disease. To meet their goals, the team designed two sgRNAs to target a conserved region adjacent to the coding sequence for the 33-mer in the -gliadin genes. They then sought to evaluate the results.
    The research team included Susana Sánchez-León, Javier Gil-Humanes, Carmen V. Ozuna, María J. Giménez, Carolina Sousa, Daniel F. Voytas, and Francisco Barro. They are variously affiliated with the Departamento de Mejora Genética Vegetal, Instituto de Agricultura Sostenible (IAS-CSIC), Córdoba, Spain; the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development, Center for Genome Engineering at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, MN, USA; and with the Facultad de Farmacia, Departamento de Microbiología y Parasitología, Universidad de Sevilla, Spain.
    The gliadin gene family of wheat includes four highly reactive peptides, with the 33-mer peptide being the main culprit in celiac patients. In all, the team generated twenty-one mutant lines, all of which showed strong reduction gliadin proteins.
    Of the 45 different genes identified in wild type gliadin, the team mutated up to 35 different genes in one of the lines to achieve an 85% reduction in immunoreactivity. They then identified the transgene-free lines, and found no off-target mutations in any of the potential targets.
    So, what does this all mean in English? Well, basically the low-gluten, transgene-free wheat lines that the team describes here could be used to produce low-gluten foods, as well as serving as source material to introduce the low-gluten, low-reactivity traits into selected wheat varieties.
    Basically, the technology could be used to create low-gluten wheat varieties with low immunoreactivity. Now, most folks with celiac disease, especially those with higher gluten sensitivity, would likely need more than and 85% reduction in immunoreactivity to see any real benefit. However, this study provides an interesting glimpse at how science might help researchers to create wheat strains that are safe for people with celiac disease.
    Source:
    Plant Biotechnology Journal. DOI: 10.1111/pbi.12837

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