University researchers developing cancer-fighting beer

Genetic engineering could give Joe Six Pack anti-aging and cancer-fighting benefits

Have you ever picked up a cold, frosty beer on a hot summer's day and thought that it simply couldn't get any better?

Well, you may have to think again.

A team of researchers at Rice University in the US is working to create a beer that could fight cancer and heart disease. Taylor Stevenson, a member of the six-student research team and a junior at Rice, 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 , a natural component of grapes, pomegranates and red wine, a key reason for the so-called French Paradox - 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.

The Wisconsin researchers had 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 added that giving high doses to invertebrates staves off premature death in mice fed a high-fat diet.

Stevenson said that Rice research group, most of whom 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 varies in different bottles of wine, as it depends on growing conditions for the grapes and other variables. The researchers felt they could design a beer with higher, and 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.

The Rice effort is the latest in a series of projects that use technology to find cures to major health concerns like cancer and heart disease.

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