Chinese scientists create GM purple rice that reduces risk of cancers and diabetes

Chinese scientists have created genetically modified purple rice that can reduce the risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and other chronic disorders.

Researchers developed the approach capable of delivering many genes at once and used it for making rice endosperm - seed tissue that provide nutrients to the developing plant embryo - produce high levels of antioxidant-boosting pigments called anthocyanins.

"We have developed a highly efficient, easy-to-use transgene stacking system called TransGene Stacking II that enables the assembly of a large number of genes in single vectors for plant transformation," said Yao-Guang Liu of the South China Agricultural University, PTI reported.

"We envisage that this vector system will have many potential applications in this era of synthetic biology and metabolic engineering," said Liu.

To date, genetic engineering approaches had been used for developing rice enriched in beta-carotene and folate, but not anthocyanins.

Although these health-promoting compounds were naturally abundant in certain black and red rice varieties, they were absent in polished rice grains due to the removal of the husk, bran, leaving only the endosperm.

Researchers had earlier not been able to engineer anthocyanin production in rice due to the highly complex nature of the underlying biosynthesis pathway, and it had been difficult to efficiently transfer many genes into plants.

Purple rice is rich in antioxidants which reduce damage to cells.

According to the Chinese scientists, the levels of antioxidants in the genetically engineered rice can cut the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, ­diabetes and other chronic disorders.

However, purple rice will not be in the market any time soon as it is difficult to produce.

The pigments are also present in blueberries

The researchers had only recently been able to successfully insert the eight genes needed to produce anthocyanin into the plant.