K-State researchers announce breakthrough in wheat that could help those with celiac disease
Researchers at Kansas State University have had a breakthrough in developing wheat-based foods that contain lower amounts of gluten.
Aaron Harries, vice president of research and operations with the Kansas Wheat Commission, says researchers used CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology to reduce the presence of gluten-coding genes in the wheat genome. “He reduced the number of proteins in a wheat variety that causes the reaction in people with celiac disease,” he says. “And he silenced some of those specific proteins.”
He tells Brownfield this doesn’t mean a reduced-gluten wheat variety will be available for wheat growers anytime soon.
He says it starts with filing a patent and then is followed by more research. “The discovery he made is in a Chinese spring wheat variety and we grow hard red winter wheat here in Kansas,” he says. “So he first needs to kind of transfer that trait into a hard red winter wheat variety. Then you need to do testing in the field and grow some of that wheat.”
Harries says that test-batch wheat would need to be milled and then used to bake a loaf of bread to see how it performs.
He says that’s followed by more testing, this time in humans who have Celiac Disease.
The final step would be to find a partner to commercialize the wheat variety. “We would have to work through K State and probably through a seed technology company, or a seed company, or even a food company like a milling or baking company who would want to license this technology and use their channels to bring it to consumers,” he says.
Harries says the entire process takes between 6 and 7 years to reach commercialization.
The research was funded in part by the wheat checkoff with additional funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
AUDIO: Aaron Harries, Kansas Wheat Commission
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Author: Meghan Grebner