Our Science – Food Safety
Ensuring a gluten-free food supply
For food safety we are pioneering advanced methods to identify new physiologically relevant gluten peptide sequences in wheat, barley, and rye grain to greatly improve on the capability to screen for the full range of gluten proteins in food products.
Our research is identifying new immunogenic epitopes (peptide markers) for the gluten allergen that will permit significantly more accurate screening methods. The discovery and identification of these peptide markers is based on a novel liquid chromatography 2D mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Our work is focused on peptide markers for gluten proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye. The objective is find a broad range of new toxic epitopes some that are specific to grain types and some that are universal to all grain types providing more effective quantitation of total gluten in affected foods.
We have developed proprietary digest methods to isolate toxic epitopes and novel LC-MS/MS methods to sequence and quantify these epitopes in different food groups. The objective is to establish sensitivity thresholds for LC-MS/MS and in particular novel competitive multiplexed formats. A major advance is our newly discovered sequence “QPQQPLPQPQQPF” (named WBR13), as it is present in native and processed products for wheat, barley, rye and can provide an accurate universal screen for all gluten grain types. The currently used screening methods are based on ELISA and have limited effectiveness for processed foods and certain food groups. They also rely on a single toxic epitope and therefore do not accurately measure total gluten content.
In addition to developing the WBR13 universal screen we are engaged in quantifying a host of newly identified peptide markers by the LC-MS/MS method. These sequences and quantitation data will be used to develop accurate multiplexed analysis kits. The end goal is to develop the LC/MS/MS method as a superior diagnostic technique to ELISA for measuring gluten content in wheat, barley and rye.