THE RISE OF people dealing with celiac disease leads to the question, “why is there an increase?” Brett Carver, an Oklahoma State University wheat researcher, says people don’t get celiac disease because of an increase in gluten consump- tion, but rather are born with the celiac disease gene that makes them intolerant to gluten. “The kinds of protein and gluten present in today’s wheat varieties mirrors the composition present throughout the domestication of wheat,” Carver says. Protein content in modern wheat varieties is very similar to that of older varieties, according to Carver, which means the intolerance has been around for many years. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, celiac disease is four to five times more common than 50 years ago. Today, it is estimated to affect one in 100 people worldwide. The only known treatment for celiac disease is a gluten-free diet, meaning no foods that contain wheat, rye or barley; but current research could find a way for these people to enjoy foods con- taining gluten. Since genetic modifications are not used in wheat breeding, other technologies are being used to discover what part of the wheat grain is actually affecting those with gluten intolerance. Aaron Harries, vice president of research and operations with Kansas Wheat says checkoff-funded research to help discover celiac-safe wheat has been ongoing since 2015, but recently has taken a detour with the new technologies available. “We did find out some good information during the early part of the research looking at the different wheat lines to see the dif- ferences in the gluten protein in each,” Harries says. “But with the new gene editing technology, the research has taken that path.” John van der Oost, a microbiologist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, has been studying gene editing since 2002. “Wageningen University research has shown the genes of viruses can have fragments edited to help with immunity against the viruses,” van der Oost says. “This research can also help us carry out specific editing of genomes to change part of the DNA to prevent diseases, viruses and mutations.” Researchers are using gene editing with the hopes of modifying the protein of wheat to help those with celiac disease. Jennifer Carrico A SLICE OF BRED AND BUTTER FOR THE GLUTEN INTOLERANT? 110 / SEEDWORLD.COM DECEMBER 2018 Upper: Aaron Harries serves as vice president of research and operations with Kansas Wheat. Lower: John van der Oost serves as a microbiologist at Wageningen University.