Genetically Engineered Tomatoes Decrease Plaque
Through a study on rates, the researchers have first time have displayed how genetically engineered tomato plants produced a peptide that mimics the actions of good cholesterol when eaten.
When they fed the mice with frozen dried ground tomato they showed a less inflammation and reduced artherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries).
One of the common disorders is the hardening of arteries known as atherosclerosis. It occurs when fat, cholesterol, and other substances build up in the walls of arteries and form hard structures called plaques. High blood cholesterol levels can cause hardening of the arteries at a younger age.
"We have found a new and practical way to make a peptide that acts like the main protein in good cholesterol, but is many times more effective and can be delivered by eating the plant," said Alan M. Fogelman, M.D., senior author of the study and executive chair of the Department of Medicine and director of the Atherosclerosis Research Unit in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
For the study the researchers genetically engineered the tomatoes to produce 6F, a small peptide that mimics the action of ApoA-1, the chief protein in high density lipoprotein (HDL or good cholesterol).
These tomatoes were later fed to the mice that lack the ability to remove low density lipoprotein (LDL or bad cholesterol) from their blood and readily develop inflammation and atherosclerosis on consuming a high fat diet.
They noticed that the mice that ate tomatoes as 2.2 percent of their Western-style high fat, calorie-packed diet, and in addition to the peptide enhanced tomatoes showed, lower blood levels of inflammation; higher paraoxonase activity, an anti-oxidant enzyme associated with good cholesterol and related to a lower risk of heart disease; higher levels of good cholesterol; decreased lysophosphatidic acid, a tumor promoter that accelerates plaque build-up in arteries in animal models; and less atherosclerotic plaque.
"To our knowledge this is the first example of a drug with these properties that has been produced in an edible plant and is biologically active when fed without any isolation or purification of the drug," Fogelman said.
The researchers reported this study at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2012.