New BioBeer Promises a Healthier Ale

A new scientific project gives new meaning to the toast “to your health.”  Students at Rice University in Houston, Texas have successfully engineered brewer’s yeast genes to contain resveratrol, the chemical in red wine believed to give it positive health benefits.  The product, dubbed BioBeer, will possess the same potential for preventing cancer, Alzheimer’s, Type II diabetes, and heart disease as resveratrol-rich red wine.

While the project might sound like a gag, the science behind BioBeer is anything but simplistic.  Using yeast from local Saint Arnold Brewing Company in Houston, the student researchers have modified two sets of the yeast’s genes to create a pathway that will allow the resveratrol to be exhibited by the beer: the first set of genes enables the yeast to metabolize sugars to produce an intermediate chemical, and the second set of genes transforms the intermediate chemical into the resveratrol.  The team has yet to successfully brew a batch of their BioBeer, a process which will first require the isolation and removal of certain “unappetizing” chemical markers before it is drinkable.  Even then, most of the students working on the project are under 21, and may have to wait even longer to enjoy the fruits of their labors.  The researchers presented their preliminary work at this year’s International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, and have since garnered significant attention for their concept.  While it may be awhile before BioBeer makes it to local markets, beer aficionados are sure to be hoisting their next pints in honor of the work of these intrepid young innovators.

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