GM tomatoes have anti-ageing properties

Tuesday, 14 November, 2017

Researches from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) collaborated with the Institut de Biologie Moléculaire des Plantes (CNRS, Strasbourg, France) to significantly boost the antioxidant properties in tomatoes.

Led by Professor Chye Mee-len, the researchers used a gene originally from an Indian mustard plant and inserted it into a tomato plant.

Previous research showed that 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A synthase (HMGS) variant S359A displayed 10-fold higher enzyme activity which, when introduced into Arabidopsis (plants related to cabbage and mustard), caused phytosterol content to increase.

After inserting this variant into tomatoes, they found that it enhanced health-promoting vitamin E by 494%, and increased provitamin A and lycopene contents by 169% and 111% respectively compared to the control group. This was indicated by the darker colour of the carotenoid extracts in the modified tomatoes.

Published in Plant Biotechnology Journal, the researchers also noted that the enhanced antioxidants caused by genetically modifying the tomatoes did not cause the fruit to change in appearance or size.

Mee-len explained the potential value this could bring to a wide range of different industries.

“The accumulation of the healthy components in food crops would provide added value to fruits and vegetables in the human diet, as well as enrich feed for livestock and aquaculture,” she said. “Extracts with enriched phytosterols, vitamin E and carotenoids can be used in the production of anti-ageing cream and suncare lotion. These compounds show excellent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity.”

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