Have you ever had gluten-free bread? It’s terrible. That’s because what makes bread delicious is gluten, a protein found in wheat that helps to give bread the firm but light texture and structure that makes carbs so irresistible. Now, though, science may have a fix. Scientists have engineered new strains of wheat that produce forms of gluten that decrease triggering of immune reactions in most people with coeliac disease.
All gluten, it turns out, is not created equal. Most immune reaction to gluten are caused by a component in gluten called gliadins. So scientists at the Institute for Sustainable Agriculture in Cordoba, Spain set out to use gene editing to remove most of the gliadins from wheat. They reported their efforts recently in the journal Plant Biotechnology.
Using CRISPR, so far they have managed to knock out 35 of the 45 genes for the main gliadin protein. Immunoreactivity to gluten, they reported, was reduced by 85 per cent with the new wheat. Such a genetically modified wheat strain, they wrote, might one day be used to create low-gluten foods.
More genes will still need to be knocked out before the wheat is ready for testing. But the modified wheat has already passed what may ultimately be its biggest test: The low-gluten wheat made a decent loaf of bread.