GOING GLUTEN-FREE

Gluten is a particular kind of protein that is not found in eggs or meat but is in barley, rye, wheat and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). Going gluten-free means avoiding these grains. A gluten-free diet is essential for those who have celiac disease, a condition that causes inflammation in the small intestines, or gluten allergies.  Symptoms of celiac disease include anemia, constipation or diarrhea, bloating, gas, headaches, skin rashes, joint pain and fatigue.

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A DIET FOR HEALTH & WEIGHT LOSS

Have you noticed? Look around and you’ll see a majority of Americans who are either overweight or obese. Look in supermarkets and you’ll see a plethora of food products, many of them processed or high-fat and/or sweet laden.  Consuming such a diet often leads to poor health and weight gain. It is not surprising that the leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease. A number of diseases, including pre-diabetes, diabetes, stroke and depression, are linked to how we eat .....

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ANTIBIOTICS IN OUR FOOD

Just what is in the food we eat? Considering the food chain, did you know adding antibiotics to food dates back to the 1940s? Antibiotic use has led to a dramatic reduction in illness and death from infectious diseases, yet there is a downside to this practice. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and others encourage health care professionals and patients to use antibiotics more wisely and seek education and understanding about both the risks and benefits of using them.

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Yeast has already given us bread, wine and beer, but in the very near future it may be a new painkiller.

 

Researchers at Stanford University have genetically engineered baker’s yeast to act on sugar so that in three to five days the sugar is converted to hydrocodone. In the same general way yeast can work on sugar and turn it into alcohol, the engineered yeast can take sugar, break it down and reassemble it into an opioid drug, according to the researchers.


Hydrocodone is an opioid class drug whose chemical cousins, oxycodone and morphine, can take more than a year to produce from poppies grown on licensed farms around the world. The poppies must be harvested, processed and shipped to pharmaceutical factories around the world. Speeding up the process would be valuable, as would removing the need for poppies.


In this new process, DNA is introduced into yeast cells that instruct it to create a chemical assembly line. Genes from plants, bacteria and rats are included in the genetic engineering.


“When we started work a decade ago, many experts thought it would be impossible to engineer yeast to replace the entire farm-to-factory process,” said senior study author Christina Smolke, a Stanford

YEAST TRANSFORMS QUICKLY INTO HYDROCODONE

ANGELA S. HOOVER

Angela is a staff writer for Health & Wellness magazine.

more articles by Angela s. hoover

associate professor of bioengineering. The experiment yields thus far have been too small for practical application as yet; it takes a whopping 4,400 gallons of bioengineered yeast to produce just a single dose of hydrocodone. The success is the proof of concept: It can be done. It just needs to produce more.


Smolke says there’s no possibility this technique, as it currently stands, could be used to produce illicit drugs such as heroin. “It’s definitely the case that no one could take these strains now and use them for commercial production or abuse them for nefarious purposes,” Smolke says. “You could get more of these compounds from eating a poppy seed bagel.”


While confirming genetically engineered yeast can produce hydrocodone and thus eliminate the use of poppies and the farm-to-factory process, there is still much more work needed to begin employing these methods. “This is only the beginning,” Smolke said. “The techniques we developed and demonstrate for opioid pain relievers can be adapted to produce many plant-derived compounds to fight cancers, infectious diseases and chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and arthritis.”