Applecross students make discovery that aids people with gluten sensitivities

Applecross High School students Wookyoung Kim, Sarah Boon, Kaleigh Spithoven and Emma Mezger.Picture: Jon Hewson        www.communitypix.com.au   d443681
Applecross High School students Wookyoung Kim, Sarah Boon, Kaleigh Spithoven and Emma Mezger.Picture: Jon Hewson        www.communitypix.com.au d443681

THE next generation of scientists have been guided by a Murdoch University professor to make a discovery about the proteins in sourdough, which could help it to become more palatable for those with gluten sensitivities.

The Applecross Senior High School students presented their findings at a prestigious international workshop about gluten after working closely with Rudi Appels, one of the world’s leading wheat genome experts.

The project by four Year 11 students has provided some novel insights into the proteins that are associated with coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity.

“The students have been analysing the proteins in sourdough by comparing the protein peaks in normal bread and sourdough in print-outs generated by mass spectrometry,” Professor Appels said.

“They found that something in the process of making the sourdough reduced the presence of key proteins and have hypothesised that by getting rid of these proteins through processing technologies, there might be a way of making sourdough bread more tolerable for those with gluten sensitivities.

“This means the taste and texture of sourdough would not be compromised like it can be with certain gluten free bread products.”

Prof Appels also collaborated with 36 Year 10 students at Rossmoyne Senior High School and four Year 12 students at Corpus Christi College in the lead up to the 12th International Gluten Biotechnology (12th IGB-2015) workshop.

“They have all worked very hard throughout this project and we hope we have impressed upon them the importance of agricultural sciences to their own everyday eating habits and those of people around the world,” Prof Appels said.

Applecross Senior High School science teacher Aniela Wooldridge said it was fantastic to hear her pupils discussing their ideas for further research.

“The fact that the girls came up with their own hypothesis, tested it and were able to reflect on those results made the scientific method come alive in way that is hard to replicate in a school environment,” she said.

“The research direction that the girls took enabled them to address a real world problem and possibly identify the beginnings of a solution.”

Prof Appels said he hoped the students’ experiences on the project had been enjoyable and many might now be considering pursuing it further at university.

“We undertake many different research projects at Murdoch across a range of topics and our findings have huge implications for food safety and security internationally,” he said.

“With a growing world population and demands for food growing greater all the time, the work of agricultural scientists is becoming increasingly important.

“We hope this project has helped to convey this to the school students and that we may soon be welcoming the next generation of agricultural scientists on to campus.”