AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: produce

Potato, Patato No More? Scientists have cracked the code to diversifying the classical starch

With gene-editing technologies such as CRISPR, the variety in produce has been growing at greater rates than ever. It seems as if it is only a matter of time until we get a talking pepper. However, potatoes have been lagging behind. A potato may look quite simple to the human eye, but it is actually quite complex in the world of genomes. For this reason, the human genome was discovered more than 20 years before the genomes that make up a delicious fast food French fry.French Fries

So what is it that makes the potato genome puzzle so difficult to crack? Human offspring receive one of each chromosome from the mother and father, while potatoes receive two of each chromosome from each parent. This results in 4 total copies of each chromosome and in turn four copies of a given gene. A species such as this is called tetraploid. The increase in genes per trait makes editing a given trait that much more difficult. Another task of great difficulty is recreating the potato genome. A task much more difficult than doing so for humans. 


Haploid, diploid ,triploid and tetraploid

Scientists Korbinian Schneeberger and Hequan Sun found a clever shortcut. They realized that the pollen cells of potatoes, similar to gametes in humans, contain only half the chromosomes of a body cell. Pollen cells are by this logic, diploid cells containing two of each chromosome. Sequencing the DNA of large amounts of pollen cells allowed the scientists to map out the full genome of a potato. The construction of this genome will make identifying and editing diverse variants of potatoes a much easier task. 

This begs the question of why? Why do we need variety in species of potato? Historical events such as the Irish potato famine of  1840 are a prime example of the importance of produce variety. The famine was caused by tuber blight. A potato is a tuber, a storage stem of plats, and blight is a plant disease commonly caused by fungi. Despite being the most important crop and source of food at the time in most of Europe, the incredible lack of variability of a potato meant no species of potato was resistant to the disease. With concerns over climate change, and an increase in potato popularity; “The potato is becoming more and more integral to diets worldwide including even Asian countries like China where rice is the traditional staple food. Building on this work, we can now implement genome-assisted breeding of new potato varieties that will be more productive and also resistant to climate change — this could have a huge impact on delivering food security in the decades to come.” (Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research), make this issue more important than it may appear. 

Cancer Prevention, at the supermarket

Cancer Prevention, starting at the super market

In a recent Fox News article, an analysis was done on ten different foods and their health benefits. Remarkably, each of these common foods were found to help not only one’s general health, but also can lower the chances of getting many different forms of cancer.

#1) Red Peppers

These spicy vegetables are packed with capsaicin. This amide is what gives the pepper heat and also can be a great pain reliever. Yet, the capsaicin found in the peppers can also have cancer prevention benefits due to their ability to inhibit harmful nitrosamines.

#2) Avocado

A very common ingrediant in many dishes, avacado can have many health benefits. Filled with antioxidants called glutathione, eating some avacado can boost your immune system and its ability to protect against invading pathogens. In fact, glutathione has been called “the mother for all antioxidants” for its ability to help prevent a number of diseases, including cancer.

#3) Carrots

Rich in beta-carotene, carrots can help reduce risk of getting a number of cancers including lung, prostate and breast cancer.

#4) Flax Seeds

Loaded with antioxidants these cheap and good tasting seeds can be found in every super market.They are high in omega-3 fatty acids which can reduce one’s risk of being infected with breast and colon cancer.

#5) Onions

Onions can be power houses of immune system benefits. All onions are made up of allium compounds which can help protect against  many carcinogens associated with cancer. The allium can strength cells ability to keep cancer cells out and can slow down or even prevent the development of tumors.

#6) Green Tea

This easy to buy tea is known to help block almost every cancer there is, ranging from colon to breast cancer. Green tea is especially healthy as it full of polyphenols that have many of the benefits of antioxidants. Polyphenols have amazing traits such as being able to cut off blog supply to tumors and in turn help in their destruction.

#7) Licorice Root

While licorice candy does not have the same benefits, the root itself is filled with glycyrrhizin. This chemical can block many of the negative effects of testosterone and overall can deter the development of cancers affected by the hormone.

#8) Rosemary

This common herb is found in almost every kitchen and food store in the country. Not only can rosemary spice up food, it also has be proven to help prevent both breast and skin cancers when consumed regularly.

#9) Seaweed

Seaweed may not seem like the most appetizing of all these cancer fighting agents, but it is a more common ingredient than you think. In fact, if you have ever eaten sushi, seaweed has been on your plate more times than not. Filled with beta-carotene, protein, vitamin B12, fiber, and chlorophyll, seaweed contains many fatty acids which can prevent breast cancer in both males and females.

#10) Turmeric

Turmeric is a common find in any produce section. It is loaded with many anti-inflamatories which can slow down the production of enzymes in your body connected to colon cancer.


Thanks for reading. The next time you are in the produce section of the supermarket, do forget to pick up a few of these ingredients, it can only help you.

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