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Gluten Removal

Researchers have developed wheat strains that lack most of the gluten that people with celiac disease are sensitive to, New Scientist reports.

A team from the US and Spain used the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing tool to target genes encoding the α-gliadin protein component of gluten that triggers immune reactions among people with celiac disease within bread and durum wheat. Wheat harbors some 45 α-gliadin genes and the researchers targeted 35 of them to reduce the gluten content. As the researchers report in the Plant Biotechnology Journal, they generated 21 low-gluten wheat lines with 85 percent decreased immunoreactivity through this approach.

New Scientist notes that as the wheat still contains some gluten, it can be used to bake bread. Jan Chojecki of PBL-Ventures tells it the low-gluten wheat can't be used to make large loaves of sliced bread, but it can be used to produce baguettes or rolls. Chojecki is working with investors to market the bread.

Coeliac UK's Sarah Sleet adds at New Scientist that some patients will be glad to have this option, though she notes that others might not want to try genetically modified bread or take the chance they'll react to the gluten that remains.