A genetically modified tomato which could make for more heart-friendly products has been developed by European scientists.
Martine Verhoeyen of Unilever Research in the UK and colleagues, describe how they boosted the production of rutin, a compound found in the skin of tomatoes. Rutin is a flavonol, part of a larger group of compounds called flavenoids, and is believed to be a powerful antioxidant.
The researchers noticed that flavonol production depended on the enzyme chalcone isomerase (CHI). By inserting a Petunia gene that encodes for CHI, they engineered tomatoes with skin that had up to a 78-fold increase in flavonol levels - around the same amount as onions.
The researchers found that four subsequent generations of the tomatoes inherited the higher level of flavonol and that 65 per cent of the compound was retained when the tomatoes were processed into paste.This suggests the possibility of producing tomato-based products with increased health benefits.