It’s hard enough to convince children to eat their greens. How hard is it going to be when those greens are a horrific shade of purple? Well, you could tell them it might keep them healthy. (That always works with children doesn’t it?)
By putting genes from the snapdragon into tomatoes, scientists have managed to increase the amount of pigment anthocyanins in the fruit. Eating anthocyanins may protect against diseases and, as the researchers behind this ‘super tomato’ report in Nature Biotechnology, cancer-susceptible mice fed the purple fruit showed “a significant extension of life span”.
Cathie Martin, lead author on the new paper, says (press release):
This is one of the first examples of metabolic engineering that offers the potential to promote health through diet by reducing the impact of chronic disease. And certainly the first example of a GMO with a trait that really offers a potential benefit for all consumers. The next step will be to take the preclinical data forward to human studies with volunteers to see if we can promote health through dietary preventive medicine strategies.
In comments distributed by the Science Media Centre a number of people caution about extrapolating the results to humans. Paul Kroon, of the Institute of Food Research in Norwich, notes, “Although this is promising, it would be naive to assume that the same would necessarily occur in humans, but certainly there should be more research to investigate how these foods may be of benefit.”
Purple pizzas -- just what the doctor ordered – AFP
Image top: whole and cross-section of ripe wild-type and Del/Ros1N tomato fruit.
Image lower: tomatoes harvested at green (left), breaker (middle) and red (right) ripening stages. Upper row are wild; middle row is Del/Ros1C type; lower row is Del/Ros1N type.