25 November, 2008

Purple tomatoes help fight cancer

Deep purple ... genetically engineered tomatoes on the left alongside normal red tomatoes

A PURPLE tomato that fights cancer has been genetically engineered by British scientists.

Genes of a snapdragon flower were put into normal tomatoes, making them produce high levels of anthocyanins — chemicals that colour blackberries and blueberries.

Research suggests the compounds protect against cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. They may also combat inflammation, obesity and diabetes and improve vision.

Scientists put powder from freeze-dried purple tomatoes into the food of mice lacking an essential anti-cancer gene.

Powder from red tomatoes had no effect and the mice died of cancer.

But animals given the GM tomato powder lived longer, an average of 182 days compared with 142.

The tomatoes may be sold in Europe in three years. Prof Cathie Martin of the John Innes Centre, Norwich, said human studies are “the next step”. (thesun)

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