Research is pivotal to the mission of the Celiac Disease Foundation, and so I’m excited to provide you with an update on the groundbreaking findings of a recent study conducted for the European Union’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) on the potential socioeconomic impact of low-gluten, “celiac-safe” wheat that is being developed through the process of gene editing.  

The findings of the JRC study, “Socioeconomic impact of low-gluten, celiac-safe wheat developed through gene editing,” highlighted below, are particularly important for our patient community, because as you know, the Foundation is funding a project at Dr. Jorge Dubcovsky’s lab at UC Davis to develop commercially viable celiac disease–safe wheat varieties for bread and pasta. The JRC study discusses a parallel project underway in the EU; its conclusions truly validate the Foundation’s investment in Dr. Dubcovsky’s work. 

In both the UC Davis and EU projects, advanced gene-editing techniques are being used to selectively modify the wheat genome – significantly reducing, or eliminating, the gluten proteins responsible for triggering immune responses in celiac disease patients. Likewise, both UC Davis and the EU are reporting substantive advancements toward producing “celiac-safe” wheat, though more years of development, safety (and taste-testing!) work remains before a product will be brought to market. 

Study highlights include:  

  1. Enhanced Nutritional Value: The low-gluten wheat variety retained all the essential nutrients found in traditional wheat, ensuring individuals with celiac disease can consume a well-balanced diet without compromising their nutritional needs.
  2. Expanded Food Choices: The availability of “celiac-safe” wheat opens a wide range of food options for individuals with celiac disease, allowing them to enjoy products like bread, pasta, and baked goods that were previously off-limits due to gluten content.
  3. Improved Quality of Life: By offering “celiac-safe” alternatives, this gene-edited wheat promotes inclusivity and social integration for individuals with celiac disease, eliminating the need for separate meals or special accommodations in various social settings, thereby fostering belonging and reducing stigma.
  4. Economic Implications: The introduction of “celiac-safe” wheat has substantial socioeconomic implications. It presents opportunities for the food industry to cater to a previously underserved market segment, potentially leading to increased production, job creation, and economic growth. Likewise, patients who maintain a gluten-free diet have food costs twice as high as patients without dietary restrictions. Even if the cost of “celiac-safe” wheat is significantly higher than regular wheat, given the relatively small percentage of overall food prices contributed by raw ingredients, food costs for gluten-free patients would still drop dramatically, potentially improving food and nutrition security for millions. 

The investments in the UC Davis project to develop a “celiac-safe” wheat – made possible by the generous contributions of individuals like you – are consistent with our overall commitment to address, reduce, and eliminate the challenges faced by our celiac disease patient community.  

As these pioneering projects continue to unfold, we anticipate further breakthroughs that will propel us closer to a world where “celiac-safe” wheat varieties are readily available, providing individuals with celiac disease the increased dietary options, improved social integration, and enhanced quality of life they seek. 

Please consider making a gift today so that we may continue to fund these critical research efforts. Also, feel free to reach out if you would like to learn more about this project – or any of the other research we support. 

To Our Health, 

Marilyn G. Geller
Chief Executive Officer