Scientists Work on new Rice Strains to Combat Diabetes in China

By Prei Dy, | May 15, 2017

International researchers want to develop a new rice strains to help prevent people from suffering with diabetes. (YouTube)

International researchers want to develop a new rice strains to help prevent people from suffering with diabetes. (YouTube)

Scientists all over the world are working to develop new strains of rice that will help prevent people in China from falling ill with diabetes.

Hye Haifang, a researcher from East China Normal University, has reportedly developed a tool that marries telecommunications technology with cell-based therapy and optogenetics. The device could work by using a smartphone to control engineered cells to produce insulin when needed, Tech Wire Asia reported.

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However, some scientists have also resorted to more preventive approaches. For instance, researchers from Shanghai Normal University are planning to breed a type of black rice with larger germs (the embryonic part of the kernel) than normal rice.

Li Jianyue, a professor of life and environmental sciences, has produced larger gems so rice could have a higher protein percentage, thereby chopping down the carbohydrates amount. His work currently focuses on making hybrids rice types that contain the same nutritional value with that of the black rice and without sacrificing the taste and texture as well.

"The number of people with diabetes is surging," Li told Bloomberg. In fact, China recorded the highest number of diabetes cases in 2016 with 109.6 million, and the number is expected to increase by another 40 million by 2040, according to the World Health Organization. Of the patients, around 90 percent suffer from type-2 diabetes, which is largely due to lifestyle choices.

Other international efforts to address China's growing diabetes problem include the plan of the Chinese Academy of Sciences to develop rice with higher amounts of vitamin B, E, iron, and zinc. Shanghai Microwells Biotechnology Co. is also studying the possibility of mixing unpolished rice and white rice.

"But, now that more Chinese are seeking a healthy diet... we hope they can avoid turning to doctors for medicine," He Jianhui, general manager of Shanghai Microwells Biotechnology Co., said.

The Philippines' International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has also found the genetic basis of a starch component that could be used to counter the glycemic impact of cereals. The IRRI said that some rice strain contains the highest glycemic indexes of any food, ranging between 48 and 92. If the grain has a low glycemic index, then it is less likely to cause a spike in blood sugar.

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