Genetically modified tomatoes extend lifespan of cancer-prone mice

October 27th, 2008 - 1:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 27 (IANS) Genetically modified tomatoes, rich in anthocyanins, extended the lifespan of cancer-prone mice, after being added to their diet, according to a study. Anthocyanins are antioxidants belonging to the class of flavonoids. Present in fruits and vegetables like berries, they help to prevent cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. But their quantity is not adequate enough in diet followed in the developed world.

Researchers from the John Innes Centre, in Norwich, coordinated by Cathie Martin, under the FLORA project, engineered a naturally anthocyanins-free product as tomato to enhance its flavonoid content, according to a Catholic University press release.

In order to obtain fruit particularly rich in anthocyanins, the British team used two genes from the snapdragon flower: Delila and Rosea1. “Our institute has a long standing interest in this plant that we use as a model to study flower development,” said co-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 comes out that our purple tomato has a very high antioxidant activity, almost tripled in comparison to the natural fruit thus it is very useful to study the effect of anthocyanins.”

The research was published in the Sunday issue of Nature Biotechnology.

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