Resveratrol is the chemical in red wine, which is believed to protect against diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's and other age-related conditions.
We started out with a strict policy that we aren't supposed to drink anything in the lab. We do have a strain, and verified that it has the genes, and are in the process of brewing the beer, Discovery News quoted Peter Nguyen, the team's graduate adviser.
Eight graduate and undergraduate students created BioBeer as part of the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition. The iGEM Jamboree, as the annual meeting is called, took place at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology November 8th and 9th.
While many teams do not work on their product after Jamboree, the Rice team is planning to continue their project and are hoping to publish their results next year, and will continue to test and refine their strain of yeast.
The strain of yeast was donated from a Rice alumnus who now runs the St. Arnold Brewing Company in Houston.
The researchers are also hoping to modify their yeast enough that they will be granted a patent. They also hope to publish their results sometime next year.
However, to get a patent, the team would need to remove certain genetic markers in the yeast cells. They might also need FDA approval so that the yeast could be classified as a genetically modified organism.
However, filtering the beer would eliminate the yeast but will also do away with the medical benefits too.
The yeast cells produce resveratrol inside the cells. The cells have to burst for the human body to access the resveratrol.
After entering the body, resveratrol binds to the SIRT1 receptors, which are located inside mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell.
SIRT1 activity has been linked to combatting a variety of medical conditions, including diabetes and cancer. It may also play a role in the way calorie restriction diets have been shown to extend life in animal models.
The levels in the beer might not be high enough to have a beneficial effect, said the Rice team's faculty adviser Jonathan Silberg.