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Now a Genetically Engineered Beer to Fight Cancer and Heart Disease

by Gopalan on October 27, 2008 at 5:54 PM
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 Now a Genetically Engineered Beer to Fight Cancer and Heart Disease

US scientists are working to create a beer that will fight cancer and heart disease. Taylor Stevenson, a member of the six-student research team and a junior at Rice University in Houston, said the team is using genetic engineering to create a beer that includes resveratrol, the disease-fighting chemical that's been found in red wine.

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin in June had called resveratrol, which is a natural component of grapes, pomegranates and red wine, a key reason for the so-called French Paradox the observation that French people have lower rates of heart disease despite a cuisine known for its cream sauces and decadent cheeses, all loaded with heart-clogging saturated fats.

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The phenomenon was first noted by Irish physician Samuel Black in 1819. The term French paradox was coined by Dr. Serge Renaud, a scientist from Bordeaux University in France in 1992.

However, some health researchers question the validity of this paradox. Statistics collected by the World Health Organisation (WHO) from 1990-2000 show that the incidence of heart disease in France may have been underestimated, and may in fact be similar to that of neighboring countries.
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But then in 2008 it was found that high doses of resveratrol (a constituent of red wine) mimicked the benefits of caloric restriction (extended lifespan and reduced effects of aging) in a mice study.

The Wisconsin researchers have noted that adding small doses of resveratrol to the diet of middle-aged mice significantly slows their aging and keeps their hearts healthy. And they add that giving high doses to invertebrates extends their life spans, and high doses also stave off premature death in mice fed a high-fat diet.

Stevenson said that the Rice research group, most of the members of which aren't old enough to legally drink alcoholic beverages, came up with the idea of adding resveratrol to beer during a casual conversation about potential projects to undertake. The idea is that it may have greater effects [in beer than in wine], he added. The amount of red wine you'd need to drink to get the same results they get with rats in labs is about half a bottle a day.

He explained that the amount of resveratrol in wine varies from bottle to bottle, since it depends on growing conditions for the grapes and other variables. The researchers felt they could design a beer with higher and more consistent concentrations of the cancer-fighting chemical.

The students, using their own Dell, Lenovo ThinkPad and Gateway laptops, are now in the process of developing a genetically modified strain of yeast that will ferment beer and produce resveratrol at the same time. Stevenson said that as the research advances, the team will need to use one of Rice University's computer grids to run compute-heavy genetic models, writes Casey Kazan on the Daily Galaxy website.



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