May 19, 2024

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Treat Parkinson’s with tomatoes?

Treat Parkinson’s with tomatoes?

Treat Parkinson’s with tomatoes? British scientists develop improved versions of tomatoes, which are expected to become Parkinson’s disease.

Why are tomatoes?

For people who lose weight or exercise, no matter how harsh you are about your own recipes, tomatoes are definitely your best choice.

As a healthy food, tomatoes are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, carotene, calcium, iron, zinc, and other elements, which are very beneficial for reducing cholesterol content and preventing hyperlipidemia.
But can you imagine that tomatoes will one day be used to treat Parkinson’s disease?

Recently, Cathie Martin, a professor in the Department of Metabolic Biology and Biochemistry at Norwich Research Park, UK, and his collaborators have developed a genetically modified tomato that can provide drugs for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
Related work was published in Metabolic engineering magazine under the title “Metabolic engineering of tomato fruit enriched in L-DOPA”.

Treat Parkinson's with tomatoes? 

(Source: Metabolic engineering)

The Dilemma of Parkinson’s Disease Treatment

According to incomplete statistics, as of 2015, there were approximately 6.2 million people suffering from Parkinson’s disease worldwide and 117,000 deaths were caused. Among them, the elderly over 60 years old are the high-risk group of the disease, so Parkinson’s disease is also called the “killer of the elderly”.

(Source: Pixabay)
Unfortunately, Parkinson’s disease is currently incurable. The familiar boxing champion Ali, who once smashed the boxing world, had no choice but to suffer from this disease. His limbs were stiff and his hands and feet trembled through his old age, which made people sigh.

In current medical treatment, symptom improvement is usually the main treatment, and levodopa (L-DOPA) is used in the initial stage of the disease, combined with dopamine agonists for treatment.

L-DOPA is also called Levodopa or L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine, which is a non-standard amino acid. Since its advent as a drug in 1967, it has been the gold standard drug for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. It is also one of the essential medicines announced by the World Health Organization (WHO), with a market value of hundreds of billions of dollars.

However, Parkinson’s disease is a growing problem in developing countries, and many people cannot afford the synthetic L-DOPA price of USD 2 per day. Especially the elderly who have lost the ability to work.
Obviously, the research results of Cathie Martin and others are undoubtedly a life-saving straw for these distressed patients.

Researchers say that we can grow this tomato with relatively little infrastructure and expand it at a relatively low cost. In this way, the genetically modified tomatoes will make this expensive medicine affordable in developing countries.

Generally speaking, drugs are synthesized by chemical synthesis and natural sources. The Cathie Martin team chose to use tomato sources that can produce L-DOPA, and it is also expected to eliminate the nausea and vomiting caused by chemical synthesis of L-DOPA.

You may ask, there are only a few plants from natural sources that can perform gene synthesis operations. Why choose tomatoes among these limited plants?

Why are tomatoes?

Among the limited plant sources that can accumulate L-DOPA, the most studied is not tomatoes but Mucuna pruriens, whose seeds contain up to 10% L-DOPA.
But this source of plants is far from ideal. Mucuna pruriens covering the burrs of Mucuna pruriens can cause irritation and allergic reactions in field workers harvesting crops. The beans themselves also contain high levels of Tryptamine, which may Causes hallucinations in Parkinson’s disease patients.

In order to explore the possibility of increasing the accumulation of L-DOPA plant varieties, researchers introduced enzymes that convert tyrosine into L-DOPA in the betalains biosynthesis pathway, thereby producing L-DOPA-rich Tomato fruit.

Figure | Analysis of L-DOPA levels in tomato fruits


Studies have shown that 150 mg of L-DOPA can be produced from about 1 kg of this modified version of tomato. At the same time, the researchers found that increasing the L-DOPA level in tomatoes can also extend the shelf life. This is related to the increased antioxidant capacity, reduced cell wall degradation, increased stiffness after harvest, and decreased disease susceptibility after its gene expression changes.

Dr. Dario Breitel, one of the authors of the paper, said: “We have proven that genetically modified tomatoes can be used as a source of L-DOPA. This further proves that tomatoes are one of the best choices for synthetic biology.”


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