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Patent Awarded for Slower Digested Wheat

Wheat plants

Shree Krishna Dhital (Wikimedia Commons)

12 October 2015. A type of wheat digested more slowly than regular wheat, and thus releases glucose more slowly into the blood stream, received a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Patent number 9,150,839, titled “Wheat with increased resistant starch levels ,” was awarded on 2 October to four inventors and assigned to its owner, Arcadia Biosciences Inc. in Davis, California.

Arcadia Biosciences is a biotechnology company designing agricultural products that provide higher nutrition or are better able to withstand pests and harsh environmental conditions. The patent covers the company’s lines of wheat with higher levels of resistant starch, a type of plant fiber that resists digestion, and as a result, releases its glucose more slowly into the blood stream.

This slower release of glucose makes products milled from the wheat less likely to cause spikes in glucose levels after meals, a prime concern of people with diabetes. Resistant starch is also more easily tolerated at higher doses and offers a number of other benefits for digestive health, including fermentation of probiotic organisms in the lower digestive tract.

The patent’s technology achieves these higher levels of resistant starch with mutations in a gene known as starch branching enzyme or SBEII. With these mutations, the wheat increases the number of polymer chains that make up the wheat’s resistant starch content. The patent covers genetic sequences in these mutations, indicating the amino acids and their peptide (protein) bindings.

In addition, the patent notes that these types of wheat do not have genes introduced from other plant species. The company points out it does not use this kind of genetic modification to create resistant starch wheat varieties. Instead, the company adapts a genetic screening technique called Targeting Induced Local Lesions in Genomes or TILLING, first developed at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

With TILLING, Arcadia produces seeds and plants with the desired mutations, then screens the DNA from plants until the desired mutation and traits are identified. As reported last year in Science & Enterprise, Arcadia applied this technique to a type of tomato that ripens more slowly after harvesting, for which the company also received a U.S. patent.

The company cites a report from market research company Global Industry Analysts that the worldwide market for whole grain and high fiber foods is expected to reach $29.5 billion by the year 2020.

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