Science

"Herculean" research finally sequences wheat genome after 13 years of work

"Herculean" research finally s...
The massive achievement should accelerate research into the breeding of more resilient and higher yielding wheat crops
The massive achievement should accelerate research into the breeding of more resilient and higher yielding wheat crops
View 1 Image
The massive achievement should accelerate research into the breeding of more resilient and higher yielding wheat crops
1/1
The massive achievement should accelerate research into the breeding of more resilient and higher yielding wheat crops

After a massive international effort involving over 200 scientists across 20 countries, the entire wheat genome has finally been sequenced. Described as a "Herculean challenge," the wheat genome is known to be five times larger than its human counterpart and exponentially more complex. The landmark human achievement is hoped to lead to more efficient wheat breeding and production of crops.

Wheat is arguably one of the most important human food crops in the world today, contributing to around 20 percent of all the calories we collectively consume, and providing more protein to the world's population than meat. Understanding its genome is of great value in better guiding selective breeding of varieties that can enhance yields and help our food growers adapt to a rapidly changing climate.

Despite initially compiling the raw genomic data almost a decade ago, the scale and complexity of the wheat genome has proved a challenge in accurately assembling that data into applicable chromosomes. The final results, recently published in the prestigious journal Science, outlines a sequence of 21 chromosomes, including more than 4 million molecular markers, and well over 100,000 specifically located genes.

"Genomic knowledge of other crops has driven progress in selecting and breeding important traits," explains Cristobal Uauy, a geneticist from the John Innes Center working on the research. "Tackling the colossal wheat genome has been a Herculean challenge, but completing this work means we can identify genes controlling traits of interest more rapidly. This will facilitate and make more effective the breeding for traits like drought or disease resistance. Where previously we had a broad view and could spot areas of interest, we can now zoom into the detail on the map."

An example of an outcome from this impressive breakthrough has already come from research led by a team from Australia's Murdoch University. This work set out to utilize the wheat genome data by examining proteins with a known connection to coeliac disease and other wheat allergies, then mapping the specific location of those proteins on the wheat genome.

"Understanding the genetic variability and environmental stability of wheat will help food producers to grow low allergen food that could be used as a safe and healthy alternative to complete wheat avoidance," says Angéla Juhász, co-lead on the low-allergy wheat research.

Another piece of research accompanying the explicitly detailed genomic sequence is a set of annotations designed to help target which genes directly affect specific traits. This work will help accelerate improvements in wheat crops resulting in a more effective breeding arsenal to help feed a growing population.

"The genome is really a tool that allows us to address the challenges around food security and environmental change," says Ricardo Ramirez-Gonzalez, lead author on the accompanying annotated article. "We believe that we can boost wheat improvement in the next few years in the same way that rice and maize were refined after their sequences were completed."

The landmark research was published in the journal Science.

Source: John Innes Center

4 comments
jason_d
How long before I can buy some that have been split back into 8 genes from the current16 gene hybrid? the "Old Testament" Bible wheat?
flyerfly
Up until I was 30 I could eat wheat just fine...now I can't without getting severe stomach/gut pain and troubles. I often wonder if it is because people messed with it to much and it is ruining people. When I was young I can't recall hearing of all of these wheat problems. People had allergies to nuts etc. Now it seems they are everywhere...except not as many in countries that don't use all the GMO edited junk. No I am NOT a fan of this tinkering, I am convinced we will not reap wheat...but famine and sickness. But most will just blame that on "climate change" or something else. Oh joy...such a mess in the name of progress.
KungfuSteve
Low-Allergen ?! IDIOTS! How do you think allergic reactions took place?! When the scientists altered the wheat in the first place... to make wheat more "drought resistant" !!! (In the 60s)
The allergic reactions in humans, isnt INSTANT! The body realizes that the stuff is Toxic.. and starts fighting it. Over time... with CONSTANT fighting... the bodys genetics start to weaken and fail... and develops a mild reaction... which over time.. and potentially a few generations worth of reproduction... turns into a MAJOR reaction!!!
You IDIOTS think you can just tweak a few switches... and see if nobody instantly gets sick and dies! >_< !!! The Devestating results can take 30 years to fully be revealed... and then, the result will be catastrophic! Once the bodys immune system has been compromised, due to this damage... its NEVER THE SAME!!!
Every damn day of my life is a LIVING HELL!!! Due to your FN TAMPERING!!!
Not only can I not eat wheat anymore... but I also developed allergic reactions to Dairy, Eggs, and Soy!!! Probably because the Chickens are being fed a diet of Bastardized Grain! And other GMO / Genetic Tampering / Chemical Toxins... doing the rest.
Screw you bastards! For F'ing with MY LIFE!!! And the lives of MILLIONS of others whom are Suffering daily... due to your TAMPERING!!!
Aross
As I've said before, these changes are not for the benefit of the consumer but for the benefit of producers. Recently opened a box of corn flakes and found a best before date of 2024. Why in the name of reason do we need to have a shelf life of 6 years.
As far as I am concerned we need to leave well enough alone. Just because we can does not mean we should. These scientists are so arrogant as to think they know what they are doing without first contemplating the consequences.
I too used to be able to eat everything without issues, now nearing 70, most of the stuff I eat makes me sick to varying degrees. We have had to resort to growing our own vegetables from heritage seeds so I don't starve.