Plants Altered to Produce Fish Oils
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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - As if vegetables weren't already healthy enough, UK scientists have found a way to add heart-healthy fatty acids to plants.
A team led by Dr. Baoxiu Qi at the University of Bath, UK, genetically altered a cress plant to produce both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are thought to be protective against cardiovascular disease. These oils are also important for infant brain and eye development.
The accumulation of these fatty acids in plants "is a breakthrough in the search for alternative sustainable sources of fish oils," Qi's team concludes in the advance online edition of the journal Nature Biotechnology.
Qi was at the University of Bristol when the research was conducted.
Of course, it is possible to consume plenty of these heart-healthy fatty acids in the diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are most abundant in salmon, mackerel, sardines and other fatty fish, while good sources of omega-6 fatty acids include a variety of plant oils, such as soybean oil.
In most industrialized societies, however, many people do not eat a diet rich in omega fatty acids. And fish supplies are declining and are sometimes contaminated, so alternative sources of healthy fatty acids are "desirable," according to Qi's team.
The researchers took genes from algae and mushrooms and inserted them into a variety of cress plant. The genetically altered plants looked the same as naturally occurring cress, but there was an important difference. The altered plants accumulated several types of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Despite the success of the effort, do not expect to see fish-oil-enriched produce at your local market anytime soon. More research is needed on the genetic modification of plants to accumulate fatty acids, according to the researchers.
But assuming further research is successful, "the production of these fatty acids in oil seed crops could become an economically viable proposition," the authors conclude.
The research was supported by BASF Plant Sciences GmbH in Germany and the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department.
SOURCE: Nature Biotechnology advance online publication.
Cool. Why they don´t do that with cheeseburger ?