Genetically modified tomatoes could save you from heart disease

Illustration for article titled Genetically modified tomatoes could save you from heart disease

A tomato genetically modified to produce a certain peptide has managed to do a pretty good job of lower plaque build up in the arteries of mice — so one day, you could help your heart simply popping down some produce.


This research is being presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2012, and the team crafted a tomato that produces 6F, a small peptide that mimics the action of ApoA-1, the chief protein in high density lipoprotein (the so called "good cholesterol"). Using mice that were unable to remove low density lipoprotein (the bad version), they fed them a high-fat diet that would cause them to easily get atherosclerosis.

With 2.2% of the rodent's diet comprised of the transgenic tomato — but an otherwise still fatty meal plan — the researches found the mice had lower levels of blood inflammation, higher activity of the anti-oxidant enzyme paraoxonase, boosted levels of good cholesterol, decreased lysophosphatidic acid (a tumor promoter that accelerates plaque build-up in arteries in animal models), and most importantly 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," said senior study author Dr. Alan M. Fogelman in a release. Personally, I can't wait to have drugs delivered in fresh vegetable form. If nothing else, most of us should be eating more vegetables anyway.

Image: Koraysa/Shutterstock


I can't get a good sense of what the "control" group of tomatoes was from the abstract. From the looks of it, it was another transgenic version, but carrying "an empty vector" that didn't express the peptide. Why wouldn't the control be of the "normal"/organic/heirloom variety? Or why wouldn't that be at least one of the varieties the "crafted tomato" was measured against? One of the problems with studies conducted by pharmaceutical companies, or with pharmaceutical interests involved (four of the studies authors have stake in the drug company Bruin Pharmaceutical - the company was founded by Dr. Alan Fogelman, the head of the study, himself), is that they compare their drug with - to quote Ben Goldacre - "something [they] know to be rubbish."