An international collaboration shows the potential for oats
- Post by: CIPPS
- 19 September 2023
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Oats are known to have excellent health benefits. They have a high protein content and can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease. Oats also have a low carbon footprint and are typically easy to cultivate, requiring fewer insecticides, fungicides or fertilizers compared to other cereals. However, an incomplete understanding of the genetic make-up of oats has led them to be excluded from coeliac and gluten-free diets due to concerns they may contain immunotoxic gluten proteins akin to those present in wheat, barley and rye.
In a ground-breaking international collaboration, which was published in Nature, the first genome of the common cultivated oat has been solved. CIPPS CI Michelle Colgrave and her group members Dr Angéla Juhász and Utpal Bose played a key role in this research which was led by Lund University, the ScanOats Industrial Research Center and Helmholtz Munich.
By solving the genome, researchers can attribute specific oat genes to features, functions or activities, including which genes and their protein products contribute to allergies or intolerances. It was discovered that oats have a lesser number and abundance of gluten proteins and those that are present contain fewer immune-triggering sequences. Further studies are needed to ensure that oats are safe to be included in gluten-free diets. Until then, the positive health benefits of oats linked to high proportions of beta-glucans which can reduce blood cholesterol levels, make them a viable breakfast option.
In addition to these exciting health benefits, the information provided by the genome could also shed light on the features that lead to the agricultural benefits of oats including their resistance to drought and disease. Understanding these features could help Australian growers sustainably produce other high-quality nutritious grain varieties at higher yields.
This impactful study highlighting the outstanding benefits of oats is a key output from Flagship 1, contributing to the project Agricultural Crops.