Researchers from Washington State and Clemson Universities have created a wheat variety safe for those with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance.  
Credit: Cooking Light

Over 18 million people in the US have a gluten sensitivity or intolerance, and at least three million have celiac disease. Consuming gluten can lead to malnutrition, nausea, and severe digestive issues for those with celiac. Scientists from Washington State University and Clemson University have just created a new genotype of wheat that is not only safe for those who can’t typically consume gluten, but also helps to fight celiac disease itself.

These scientists say their wheat variety is genetically distinct from others in that it has built-in enzymes designed to break down disease-provoking gluten proteins in the body. They did this by introducing new DNA into wheat and added two new “gluten-busting” enzymes. These enzymes come from barley, which is a gluten-containing grain, as well as a bacteria, Flavobacterium meningosepticum, that breaks down gluten in the digestive tract.

“By packing the remedy to wheat allergies and gluten intolerance right into the grain, we’re giving consumers a simpler, lower-cost therapy,” said Sachin Rustgi, assistant professor of molecular breeding at Clemson University. “We’re also reducing the danger from cross-contamination with regular wheat, as the enzymes in our wheat will break down that gluten as well.”

Interested in learning more the health effects of gluten?

This grain variety has been shown to possess not only fewer disease-inducing proteins but also reduced the presence of indigestible gluten by two-thirds. Right now, the enzymes are not heat stable, so the grain's benefits aren't as available when it is cooked, but scientists are now working on a heat-stable variation. This new wheat variety is still undergoing the research process and is not yet available for purchase.