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Genetically Modified Wheat For Celiacs?

Would You Eat Genetic Manipulated Wheat?

Gluten, a group of proteins found in cereal grains like wheat, pose major health problems for those with celiac disease, non celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), or gluten intolerances. In an attempt to overcome this necessary diet restriction, scientists are investigating ways to modify genes and breed wheat varieties that do not produce gluten proteins. A research project led by Sachin Rustgi, a molecular breeder at Clemson University’s Pee Dee Research and Education Center, aims to develop reduced immunogenicity, lysine-rich wheat genotypes using conventional and genome-editing methods. The long-term goal is to remove the immunogenic gluten proteins from the diet while retaining the nutritional benefits of wheat.

Glutens Can be Toxic for Human Health

Gluten consists of two main protein types: glutenins and gliadins. Glutenins contribute to the strength and elasticity of dough, while gliadins provide cohesiveness and extensibility.  Consumption of gluten can lead to celiac disease, as well as a plethora of additional autoimmune conditions and extra-intestinal symptoms.

How Common is Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac Disease?

Gluten-related diseases affect millions of people worldwide.  Celiac disease affects approximately 1.4% of the global population, while NCGS is estimated to affect between up to 13%. Celiac disease symptoms include diarrhea, bloating, constipation, gas, and other digestive discomforts.

Is it Possible to Develop Non-Immunogenic Wheat Genotypes?

The research project plans to employ a combination of multi-gene editing and nanoparticle-based gene delivery techniques to modify genes responsible for producing gliadin and glutenin proteins. By reducing the immunogenicity of wheat, their aim is to create genotypes that are less likely to trigger adverse reactions in individuals with gluten-related disorders.

Collaborative Research Efforts

The research team comprises experts from various fields, including biology, plant ecophysiology, and social sciences. Collaborators include Charles Rice, a biology professor at Clemson University, Nishanth Tharayil, a plant ecophysiology professor, Gaganjeet Kalara, a graduate student in plant and environmental sciences, and Meghnaa Tallapragda, an assistant professor at Temple University.

Research Project Funding

The project is funded as part of a $16.2 million investment from the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Innovative Plant Breeding Research program.

Problems With This Project

Gluten is a major contributor to a number of autoimmune and chronic inflammatory diseases.  These diseases are predictably reversible with the implementation of a whole foods gluten free diet.  Genetic manipulation of foods has not led to a healthier population, and some would argue that it has led to a host of different health issues. I can think of a lot of better ways to spend $16.2 million.  Going gluten free is not hard.  It requires an education.  It requires a little effort and dedication, but at the end of the day, that’s life.  As for myself, I will pass on the franken-grains.  Will you eat it?  Comment below.  

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