26 October 2023

Scientists have figured out how to make safe sugar for diabetics

Scientists from the Department of Chemistry at the University of California, Davis, have found a new way to get bacteria to produce allulose, a potential substitute for table sugar.

One of the sugar substitutes, allulose is about 70% sweeter than sucrose, but contains only 10% of calories. Researchers have previously found that it even improves blood glucose levels and helps with weight loss in people with type II diabetes. The problem is that allulose is a rare sugar that is found in extremely small amounts, it has been found in wheat, processed cane and beet molasses. As a result, it is not widely available with current production methods.

Now, scientists at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) have made a breakthrough in the production of allulose. It is now extracted using the enzymes D-tagatose-3-epimerase (DTEase) and D-psicose-3-epimerase (DPEase) to catalyze its conversion from fructose. But the limitations of this process meant that the yields remained at a maximum of 50% and the method didn't always work.

Scientists went beyond trying to increase the productivity of these enzymes and instead searched for another way to fully produce this sugar. And they found it in a group of bacteria called Escherichia coli (E. coli).

The researchers edited the microorganism's metabolic processes. As a result, when the cells received glucose, they converted it into allulose. This immediately led to a 62% yield, and the purity of the product rose to 95%.

Essentially, the scientists took E. coli, which naturally possesses the correct pathways for producing allulose from glucose, and altered its "design" to produce a certain desired result.

The study is published in Nature's npj journal Science of Food.
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