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Indian Researchers Create Super Potato

September 22, 2010

Indian researchers have developed a genetically enhanced potato that is chock-full of protein and has increased levels of amino acids.

Scientists published a paper on their modifications in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Tuesday, saying they hoped the protein-packed potato would find more acceptance because it uses a gene from the amaranth seed.

“Because potato constitutes an important part of the diet of many people in developed as well as developing countries, it is apparent that this can add value to potato-based products with enhanced benefits for better human health,” the researchers wrote.

Amaranth is a tall, broadleaf plant that produces tiny seeds. It was a major food staple of the Aztecs and earlier American cultures, and was grown as a grain crop in the US in the late 1970s.

The gene, Amaranth Albumin 1 (AmA1), is considered agriculturally important because it endows the plant and its seeds with high protein levels and higher concentrations of several essential amino acids.

Researchers at the National Institute of Plant Genome Research in New Delhi, led by Subhra Chakraborty, inserted the amaranth gene into seven types of potatoes and then grew the transgenic potatoes over two years.

They found that the modified potatoes contained 35 to 60 percent more protein than unaltered potatoes. They also contained increased levels of amino acids, notably lysine, tyrosine and sulfur, which are generally not found in large amounts in potatoes.

The genetically modified potatoes were fed to rats and rabbits causing no adverse reactions, the scientists said. The findings could lead to good news for the approximately one billion people worldwide that consume potatoes daily.

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