You may soon be buying genetically modified purple rice in your local supermarket. Chinese scientists have created genetically modified purple rice that can reduce the risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other chronic disorders. Researchers developed approach capable of delivering many genes at once and used it to make rice endosperm – seed tissue that provides 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. “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 have been used to develop rice enriched in beta-carotene and folate, but not anthocyanins. Although these health-promoting compounds are naturally abundant in some black and red rice varieties, they are absent in polished rice grains because the husk, bran, and germ have been removed, leaving only the endosperm.