Safer wheats could ease gluten grief
Gluten-intolerent people might one day be able to eat wheat-based bread and pasta without getting ill.
Frits Koning and his colleagues at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands have developed two tests to screen wheat for different types of gluten, the gum-like proteins that aggravate gut inflammation in people with coeliac disease.The researchers screened the 16 varieties of wheat from which most commercial wheat is derived for their effect on gluten-sensitive white blood cells taken from coeliac patients. They also used antibodies that detect the four most toxic gluten fragments directly. This showed that two varieties have unusually low levels of the most toxic forms of gluten, raising hopes that non-toxic strains could be developed that would allow people with coeliac disease to eat a much more varied diet (Gastroenterology, vol 129, p 797).Coeliac disease affects around 1 in 200 people in the west, where it is the most common food intolerance. To avoid the symptoms of diarrhoea, gut pain and retarded growth, people with the disorder must avoid all foods containing gluten. This rules out most cereal-based foods, including staples such as bread and pasta.(Source: New Scientist: issue 2516, 10 September 2005, page 20.)