Cereal grains to combat diet-related chronic diseases and intolerances
Philip Larkin1, Li Z1, Regina A1, Jobling SA1, Belobrajdic D2, Bird AR2, Colgrave ML1, Tanner GJ1, Howitt CA1
1CSIRO Agriculture and Food, Australia
2CSIRO Health& Biosecurity, Australia
Abstract: Diet-related chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD), obesity, inflammatory bowel pathologies, and colorectal cancer are major and growing global challenges. In addition food allergies and food-triggered autoimmune pathologies such as celiac disease, are having a major impact on millions of people. Inspired by the expanding power of plant metabolic engineering we have produced and deployed modified cereals addressing some of these problems. With a view particularly to diabetes and gut health, we have developed barley and wheat varieties with substantially elevated levels of grain fiber and resistant starch. While transgenic plants were important to guide this research, the deployed varieties and food products are non-GM. Key to their impact as foods is their low glycemic index and glycemic load. Importantly also a substantial proportion of the fiber and starch which resists digestion in the small intestine, serves as fermentable sources of energy for a healthy gut microbiome and for the prebiotic effect of lowering the gut pH and producing small chain fatty acids as fuel for healthy colonocytes. Through a combination of eight alleles, we have now produced a high resistant starch rice. In order to provide healthy familiar tasting food for people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities, we have developed a gluten-free barley. With a view to lowering the risk of atherosclerotic CVD, we are modifying wheat with high levels of soluble forms of beta glucan, known to lower plasma LDL-cholesterol.
Dr. Philip Larkin (Phil) is a Chief Research Scientist at CSIRO Agriculture and Food in Canberra Australia, previously holding positions of Program Leader (Metabolic Engineering of New Plant Products) and Group Leader (Cereal Quality Traits). His disease resistance research in wheat included alien chromosomal translocations and genetic modification employing synthetic transgenes encoding artificial microRNA transgenes and hairpin RNAi transgenes. The development of the wheat Bdv2 resistance against Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus was in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Institutes of Crop Breeding & Cultivation, Plant Pathology, and Crop Germplasm Resources. He has also made seminal contributions to modifying and enhancing morphinan alkaloids in pharmaceutical poppy (Papaver somniferum), and contributed to understanding the molecular genetics of proanthocyanidin (condensed tannin) synthesis. More recently the Cereal Quality Trait Group has focused on grain quality and modifications to cereal grain composition to enhance their health benefits as foods: fibre, resistant starch, lipids, micronutrients, low toxicity. He is also Adjunct Professor at the EH Graham Centre for Agriculture Innovation at Charles Sturt University, Australia. He has published more than 220 articles in scientific journals and books, and holds 12 patents. Dr. Larkin obtained his PhD from the University of Adelaide and was a postdoctoral Fellow at the Friedrich Miescher Institute in Switzerland.