Scientists are hoping gene technology and plant breeding techniques will lead to new wheat varieties that can lower cholesterol.
They are targeting the soluble fibre called betaglucan found in barley and oat grains, but only in lower concentrations in wheat, which can reduce cholesterol reabsorption in the gut.
In wheat, the fibre is slightly different in structure as well, making it insoluble.
In order to introduce the beneficial properties to bread made from wheat, the most popular variety, researchers at Australia’s peak government science agency, the CSIRO, have taken the gene that makes betaglucan in oats and expressed it in wheat grain.
This showed we can simultaneously increase the amount of betaglucan and change its structure making it as soluble as barley betaglucan. We did this in trials using genetically modified plants, a great tool to gain knowledge. We’re using them as a small-scale means to test what’s possible and understand exactly what we need to look for when we get to the next stage which doesn’t involve genetic modification.
The research has been published in the journal Science Adavances.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
Read science facts, not fiction...
There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.