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Heart-Friendly Oils from GM Crops

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Numerous studies have shown that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Dietary ingestion of these fatty acids has also been shown to reduce the symptoms of metabolic syndrome or syndrome X. The main dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, is oily fish such as sardines, mackerel and salmon.

A team of researchers from the Rothamsted Research and University of York in the UK developed transgenic Arabidopsis and linseed plants accumulating significant amount of the omega-3 fatty acid stearidonic acid in their seed lipids. The transgenic plants express the gene that codes for ?6-desaturase, the key enzyme in stearidonic acid biosynthetic pathway, from primrose (Primula vialii). The researchers reported that in the case of the transgenic linseed plants, "the achieved levels of stearidonic acid (13.4% of triacylglycerols) are very similar to those found in the sole natural commercial plant source (Echium spp.) or transgenic soybean oil."

The stearidonic acid-enriched linseed oil may have superior health-beneficial properties, the researchers said. Unlike Echium and transgenic soybean derived oils, it lacks ?-linolenic acid, which is considered undesirable for heart-healthy applications. It also has a significantly higher omega-3/omega-6 ratio.

The paper published by the Plant Biotechnology Journal is available at