Researchers at Clemson University have developed a wheat variety that’s safe for people with celiac disease to ingest. At the Pee Dee Research and Education Center (REC), they were able to alter the genome of wheat to create a new breed. With this discovery, those with celiac disease no longer have to worry about dangerous reactions to gluten.
Celiac disease pertains to someone’s issues digesting gluten. For some reason, when one ingests the protein, their immune system activates a response that is not normal. This leads to damage inside the small intestines, and this creates further complications when it comes to ingesting nutrients from food.
Without proper care and regulation, celiac disease can lead to anemia, osteoporosis, and increase the risk of lymphoma. Children living with it may experience slower growth and weaker bones if not treated properly. While the cause is still unknown, scientists have found many ways to identify the problem and present solutions.
The new wheat variety has a built-in defense against celiac disease. There are two enzymes, called glutenases, present: one from barley and one from the bacterium, Flavobacterium meningosepticum. The two break-down gluten in the human digestive tract, so the amount of indigestible gluten is reduced by two-thirds. With this new type of wheat, those with celiac disease no longer have to worry if the carbohydrates they’re eating is safe for them.
More than 3 million Americans live with celiac disease, so coming up with innovative solutions to help them live safer lives is a must. This research is still in the development stage, and it has a long way to go before it’s made the preferred variety of wheat. After the research, scientists want to educate growers to teach them about the plant and the best conditions to grow them. It will take time, but the results will be worth it.
For now, those living with celiac disease will still have to be very vigilant with their diet and transparent to food services about their dietary restrictions. As food research advances, this rigorous discipline to keep a safe diet may slowly start to relax. When all wheat becomes gluten-free, then there will be less things to worry about.