Celiac disease (CD) is an autoimmune enteropathy triggered by the ingestion of gluten-containing grains in genetically susceptible individuals. The consumption of gluten in CD causes self-perpetuating damage to the intestinal mucosal and its functionality becomes severely impaired. For CD patients, the gluten free diet is the only acceptable treatment to date, that often leads to a progressive clinical improvement in parallel with the healing of the intestinal mucosa. However, recently, concerns have been raised about the consequences of a lifelong gluten-free dietary habit, due to an unbalanced intake of carbohydrates, protein and fat, as well as a limited intake of essential nutrients. The wheat varietal selection undertaken by breeders in the last decades was tailored mainly to improve the technological and productivity related traits; however, the latter resulted in a considerable impoverishment of the genetic diversity of wheat-based products available on the market. The promise to identify selected genotypes with a reduced gluten content and to develop detoxification strategies for the production of durum wheat based commodities suitable for CD patients, represents a new challenge for Researchers.
The Research Project S.WheatPro. (RBSI14QQ1W) “Proteomic characterization of Selected durum Wheat cultivars for Production of low toxicity-food Products towards celiac disease patients”, funded by MIUR, and held by Dr Rosa Pilolli (CNR-ISPA, Bari) as Principal Investigator, aimed at revaluing the natural diversity of cultivated and non-cultivated durum wheat genotypes, scouting the heterogeneity of protein extression for implications in the toxic/immunogenic potential of CD patients, as well as in their susceptability to detoxification process by microbiological treatments.
The recearch activities were carried out mainly at CNR-ISPA in Bari, with the scientific contribution of Dr Linda Monaci (CNR-ISPA, Bari), and the collaboration with Dr G. Mamone (CNR-ISA, Avellino) and with Dr C. Gianfrani (CNR-IBP, Napoli). Within the project frame, two external consulting services were signed with the University of Bari Aldo Moro, in particular with the Genetic division, contact person Prof. A. Gadaleta (DiSAAT) and the Microbiology division, contact person Prof. M. De Angelis (DiSSPA).
The multidisciplinary approach based on the proteomic, immunological and genomic characterization, integrating conventional and advanced analytical methods, allowed to identify durum wheat genotypes combining reduced gluten amount with satisfactory rheological properties, required for their perspective application in baked food products. Even if none of the selected genotypes can be considered safe for the direct consumption by CD patients (namely individuals who diplayed the typical symptomatology of the auto-immune enteropathy), the assessment of a reduced toxicity/immunogenicity risk promised new potential applications of the selected genotypes in the prevention of CD. Indeed, previous studies demonstrated that the amount and duration to gluten exposure are strictly linked to the initiation of this pathology (Pisapia, et al. J. Autoimmun. 2016, 70, 63; Gianfrani, et al. J. Autoimmun. 2018, 89, 1).
Finally, within the S.WheatPro. research project, three model baked foods were prepared in a food pilot plant, namely monovarietal durum wheat based breads subjected to microbiological fermentation for the degradation of the residual gluten. The results obtained by the proteomic and immunochemical characterization of the prototype food products are very promising and will be shortly shared among the Scientific Community.
For further information, please contact Dr Rosa Pilolli, firstname.lastname@example.org, tel +390805929999.