Gene editing could make wheat bread safe for celiacs

Those with celiac disease may soon be able to eat wheat bread. Wheat and related cereals contain proteins called gluten that hold breads and cakes together, and certain forms of gluten cause an immune reaction in some people, leaving them unable to eat wheat, barley, and rye, per IFL Science.

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But scientists are working on strains of wheat that don't produce the forms of gluten that are dangerous for people with celiac disease, a group called gliadins, New Scientist reports.

Francisco Barro and a team at the Institute for Sustainable Agriculture in Cordoba, Spain, have set about removing gliadins, first by using a genetic modification technique and then, more successfully, by using CRISPR gene editing.

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Via that process, the team is working to eliminate all 45 copies of the problematic genes; so far, they've disabled 35 of them. Since there are still some forms of gluten in the wheat, just not the forms that cause trouble for those with celiac, the grain can still be used to make bread—baguettes and rolls at this point, not larger sliced loaves.

And that bread is "pretty good, certainly better than anything on the gluten-free shelves" currently, says one of the people working to market products made with the new wheat.

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(In layman's terms, gluten is "what makes bread delicious," Gizmodo explains, which is why gluten-free products using replacements such as rice flour are often "terrible.") Small trials of the genetically modified wheat are already taking place in Mexico and Spain with "very encouraging" results, she adds; per a new study on the low-gluten bread, immunoreactivity was reduced in subjects by 85 percent.

Researchers must successfully disable more genes before full testing can take place. (Bad news for gluten-free Catholics.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Coming Soon: Wheat Bread Those With Celiac Can Eat

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