Spicy tomatoes could be selling soon in the market.
It’s not a joke but the next generation of tomatoes could be in your burger or soup to further enhance the taste and satisfy your palate. It turns out that tomatoes are cousins of chili peppers. The researchers are studying the spicy fruit’s DNA (you read it right) as well as the alteration of tomatoes to create capsaicinoids. These are compounds that make our mouth burn every time we consume something spicy. Scientists are confident they could mass produce capsaicin for different commercial purposes.
Since both fruits are related, they have the same capsaicinoid genetic pathways. But the process of genetically modifying a tomato species for generating the compound the natural way is difficult aside from identifying which genes are directly behind its production will take some time.
Senior author of the study Agustin Zsögön said, “Engineering the capsaicinoid genetic pathway to the tomato would make it easier and cheaper to produce this compound, which has very interesting applications. We have the tools powerful enough to engineer the genome of any species; the challenge is to know which gene to engineer and where.”
According to Zsögön, they work with both plants in their lab. His team tried to “domesticate” a wild tomato by modifying its genes in just a few generations. They edited the strain to create bigger fruits and bigger quantities at the same time. CRISPR-Cas9 is the key which is the same procedure that Chinese physicist used to edit the genes of human embryos.
Along with his team, they suggest that spicy tomatoes can be the “next step in the captivating story of spicy crops.” However, Zsögön and his colleagues were still huge steps away and the genetic pathways involving the production of capsaicinoids are very complicated.
There are a plethora of uses for capsaicin that go further aside from adding spice to food. The compound contains pharmaceutical properties that could treat nerve damage and associated pain. Besides, it is likewise used in producing pepper spray and in deterring pests.
The research was published in the journal Trends in Plant Science and penned at Brazil’s Federal University of Viçosa.
Not all are in favor of the idea of producing spicy tomatoes through gene editing. University of Georgia plant geneticist and molecular biologist Esther van der
Knaap contradicts the proposal of the research and indicates the wide variety within the Capsicum crew.
Well, only time will tell if this kind of procedure and its products could be accepted by the people.