Tech UPTechnologyThey manage to enrich tomatoes with vitamin D thanks...

They manage to enrich tomatoes with vitamin D thanks to the CRISPR technique

Vitamin D deficiency is a global health problem . Its insufficiency can increase the risk of osteoporosis, cancer and neurocognitive deterioration. Most foods contain little vitamin D, let alone vegetables, which are especially poor in it. With these arguments, a team of scientists has applied the CRISPR technique to tomatoes and has achieved that they have as much vitamin D as two eggs or 28 grams of tuna .

Using “genetic scissors” scientists have designed a special dried tomato that is full of vitamin D, and it is not only the pulp that contains it, but also the leaves . “We have shown that it is possible to biofortify tomatoes with provitamin D3 through gene editing, which means that tomatoes could be developed as a sustainable plant-based source of vitamin D3,” says botanist Cathie Martin of the John Innes Center. , an independent plant research center in England. “40% of Europeans have insufficient vitamin D and the same goes for a billion people around the world. We are not only tackling a huge health problem, but we are helping growers, because the tomato leaves that currently being wasted, they could be used to make supplements from the gene-edited lines,” says Martin.

Regarding the leaves of this peculiar tomato, the researchers found that they contained 600 micrograms of provitamin D3 per gram . This is 60 times the recommended daily intake for adults. Do you mean we should eat it together with the tomato? The answer is no. What scientists suggest is to take advantage of them to manufacture vitamin D3 supplements suitable for vegans . In this way, the genetically modified tomato would serve in its entirety to combat vitamin D deficiency.

Exposure to the sun is one of the ways we have to increase our levels of vitamin D and, although we can take it from some foods, very few contain it naturally and even less if we talk about being vegan.

Tomatoes, however, naturally contain some precursors to vitamin D3 , known as 7-dehydrocholesterol or 7-DHC. By turning off the genes that code for enzymes that break down 7-DHC, the researchers forced the accumulation of the vitamin D precursor in both unripe and ripe fruit. This precursor can easily be converted to vitamin D in the presence of sunlight, but it doesn’t have to be to show its benefits. “For the elderly with declining 7-DHC levels, consumption of 7-DHC biofortified fruit could directly address their deficiencies,” the authors write in the publication.

Another positive note was that the genetic modification did not cause changes in the growth, development or yield of the tomato .

Since vitamin D deficiency is linked to an increased risk of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, depression, and dementia, biofortifying fruits and vegetables with this nutrient could go a long way toward improving public health.

In view of the promising results, the researchers call for tomatoes to be the next sustainable plant-based source of vitamin D3. Other plant-based foods such as aubergines, potatoes and peppers could come after them as these have similar vitamin D3 precursors that could be similarly modified to accumulate in plants.

“The provitamin D-enriched tomatoes we have produced offer a much-needed plant-based source of the sunshine vitamin,” says Jie Li, another of the researchers involved in the study. “This is great news for people who adopt a plant-rich, vegetarian or vegan diet, and for the growing number of people around the world who are suffering from the problem of vitamin D insufficiency.”


Referencia: Li, J., Scarano, A., Gonzalez, N.M. et al. 2022. Biofortified tomatoes provide a new route to vitamin D sufficiency. Naure Plants. DOI:

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