Since headlines began trumpeting the anti-aging effects of red wine a couple of years ago, the traditional toast to good health has become more meaningful, reports Technology Review. Students at Rice University in Texas, think that beer drinkers shouldn't be left out. They're trying to engineer yeast that produces the anti-aging chemical found in red wine--resveratrol—during fermentation and use it to brew "BioBeer" with a health boost.
"It's not going to prevent you from getting a beer gut from drinking too much beer, or from getting cirrhosis of the liver," says Taylor Stevenson, one of six undergraduates working on the project. "But people are already drinking beer, so why not make the activity a little healthier?"
The Rice students say that the method could be used to introduce other air-sensitive pharmaceuticals into beer, which is the most popular alcoholic beverage in the U.S. "I think of it as a drinkable bioreactor," says Thomas Segall-Shapiro of the BioBeer team. "It's completely ready to go once it's brewed."
The BioBeer team has equipped yeast with two genes that code for enzymes required for resveratrol production. The first enzyme converts the amino acid tyrosine into coumaric acid, and the second turns that into resveratrol.
The students plan to test their BioBeer on fruit flies to confirm that it extends their life spans. Researchers have shown that resveratrol gives flies, mice, and worms longer, healthier lives, mimicking the effects of a very low-calorie diet. Resveratrol is also being tested as a treatment for type 2 diabetes.