Thanks to the development of gene-editing technology, spicy tomatoes may soon hit shelves, scientists report.
A group of Brazilian and Irish scientists has developed a way to produce spicy tomatoes by activating capsaicinoids (the spicy compounds in chili peppers) in them.
© MaraZe | Shutterstock
«Capsaicinoids are very valuable compounds. They are used in the weapons industry for pepper spray and in medicine for anesthesia. There is some research that shows that they promote weight loss,» said Agustin Zsögön from the Universidade Federal de Viçosa in Brazil.
The scientists note that chili peppers are hard to grow, and it is quite difficult to maintain their spiciness. On the contrary, tomato yields are high and the plant is well studied. «In this way, capsaicinoids can be produced in a more cost-effective way,» Zsögön said.
Tomatoes and chili peppers originated from a common ancestor, but diverged into separate varieties about 19 million years ago. According to the author of the study, all the genes that produce capsaicinoids are present in the tomato, but they are not active. Using gene-editing technology, scientists can reactivate those genes in tomatoes, adding spice to everyday vegetables.
Zsögön and his colleagues are working to create spicy tomatoes and hope to get the first harvest by the end of the year.
Experts believe that gene-editing technology can help produce fruit and vegetables with unusual characteristics. In addition to spicy tomatoes, scientists have been trying to change the color of kiwi and the taste of strawberries.
The study was published in the Trends in Plant Science journal.