Researchers from the John Innes Centre in Norwich, Great Britain, in collaboration with other European centres participating to the FLORA project, have obtained genetically modified tomatoes rich in anthocyanins, a category of antioxidants belonging to the class of flavonoids. These tomatoes, added to the diet of cancer-prone mice, showed a significant protective effect by extending the mice lifespan. The research has been published in the 26 October issue of Nature Biotechnology.
It is a remarkable step ahead in the study on antioxidants, particularly flavonoids, widely considered as a useful tool for preventing a large number of diseases, from cardiovascular disease to certain types of can-cer. The diet followed by the majority of people living in the Western world does not appear to be suffi-cient to guarantee an adequate intake of these substances, present in many fruits and vegetables such as berries. That is why the FLORA project aims at understanding their mechanisms trying to find new ways to increase their consumption.
Researchers from the John Innes Centre, coordinated by Cathie Martin, tried to step on it by putting on the lab bench a naturally anthocyanins-free product as tomato and engineering it to enhance its flavonoid content. In this way researchers have obtained an ideal model to study the effect of anthocyanins.
In order to obtain fruit particularly rich in anthocyanins, that has conferred a peculiar purple colour to the tomatoes, the British team has used two genes from the snapdragon flower: Delila and Rosea1. "Our insti-tute has a long standing interest in this plant that we use as a model to study flower development- says lead author Eugenio Butelli- The two genes we have isolated are responsible for flower pigmentation and, when introduced in other plants, turned out to be the perfect combination to produce anthocyanins, the same phytochemical found in blueberries. At a closer chemical analysis it
|Contact: Americo Bonanni|