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.