• Researchers develop a new technique that improves and reduces the cost of gluten detection in foods

    May 30, 2016

    The new agents are able to measure amounts that were so far indeterminable, but may be harmful for coeliac patients

    De izquierda a derecha, Rebeca Miranda Castro, Arturo J. Miranda Ordieres, Maria Jesús Lobo Castañón, Susana Barreda García, Noemí de los Santos Álvarez

    Researchers of the University of Oviedo have developed a new technique that reduces the cost and also improves the gluten detection in foods. This new technology is the result of the work that the group of Electroanalysis of the Department of Physical and Analytical Chemistry implemented in 2010 and may be very useful for the food industry and also for the medical authorities to increase food safety for coeliac patients.

    Professor María Jesús Lobo Castañón reminds that coeliac disease is a pathology caused by gluten intolerance which affects around 1% of the population worldwide. The only possible treatment for these patients consists of a lifelong diet excluding this group of proteins present in some types of cereal. This researcher adds that protecting coeliac patients depends on the correct labelling of processed foods.

    This method, conceived at the University of Oviedo, allows scientists to identify the presence of these proteins in different groups of cereal

    The food code established by FAO and OMS fixed that the gluten level in food shall not be greater than 20 milligrams per kilo to be labelled as "gluten free". However, María Jesús Lobo highlights that there are extremely sensitive individuals who cannot even tolerate this amount. In fact, the Spanish Federation of Coeliac Association offers its quality brand to those foods that contain gluten amounts higher than 10 milligrams per kilo. This threshold for labelling is actually implemented following analytical methods used so far.

    The contribution of the group of the University of Oviedo relies on the design of a methodology able to detect smaller amounts of gluten than the ones detected by methods nowadays.

    This Professor of Analytical and Physical Chemistry explains that these new elements, called aptamers, are nucleic acids that are selected to recognize a specific target through a process in vitro that simulates natural selection. "One of the keys to success relies on the decision to use as the target, in the selection stages, a protein fraction, a peptide consisting of 33 amino acids that resists the digestion of our organisms and has been identified as one of the main triggering elements of the immune response after the gluten intake of a celiac patient", she explains.

    The new method to detect gluten in foods and drinks offers at the same time significant advances. It is rather cheap, and it is able to provide an accurate detection up to 0,5 milligrams per kilo and also detect gluten in cereal like wheat, rye and barley, toxic for celiac patients; also in oats, only toxic for some people; in corn, soy or rice, considered safe and often used as substitutes. This new technological tool has been proved useful in a large selection of foods.

    Both the aptamers and the gluten detection method have been protected by a patent registered by the University of Oviedo. Unfortunately, even though several meeting with national and international firms have been held, negotiations have not been fruitful yet. Researchers regret that, unfortunately, the national patent could not be extended to other countries due to lack of funding.


    • Sonia Amaya-González, Noemí de-los-Santos-Álvarez, Arturo J. Miranda-Ordieres, María Jesus Lobo-Castañón. Aptamer binding to celiac disease-triggering hydrophobic proteins: a sensitive gluten detection approach. Analytical Chemistry 86 (2014) 2733-2739. Reseña en Chemical & Engineering News February 20, 2014 Assay detects miniscule amounts of gluten in food.
    • Sonia Amaya-González, Laura López-López, Rebeca Miranda-Castro, Noemí de los Santos Álvarez, Arturo J. Miranda Ordieres, M.Jesús Lobo Castañón. Affinity of aptamers binding 33-mer gliadin peptide and gluten proteins: Influence of immobilization and labeling tags. Analytica Chimica Acta 873 (2015) 63-70.
    • Sonia Amaya-González, Noemí de los Santos Álvarez, Arturo J. Miranda Ordieres, M. Jesús Lobo Castañón. Sensitive gluten determination in gluten free foods by an electrochemical aptamer-based assay. Analytical & Bioanalytical Chemistry 407 (2015) 6021-6029. DOI: 10.1007/s00216-015-8771-6


    • Noemí de los Santos Álvarez, Sonia Amaya González, Arturo J. Miranda Ordieres, María Jesús Lobo Castañón. Aptámeros específicos contra el gluten y método de detección del gluten asociado. Patente de solicitud española. Fecha de prioridad 31/05/2012