Scientists at UCLA have developed a new genetically modified tomato to produce a peptide that impacts on cholesterol. Numerous studies have specified the side effects of low and high cholesterol on human health and that it can impact positively and negatively on different health conditions. The research was published in the Journal of Lipid Research.

The UCLA researchers involved found they could reduce the negative effects of lipids called unsaturated lysophosphaticidic acids (LPAs) that affect chronic arterial inflammation by feeding the animals the genetically engineered tomato that is designed to mimic HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

“These lipids may be a new culprit that we can target in the small intestine in fighting atherosclerosis,” said senior author Dr. Alan Fogelman, executive chair of the department of medicine and director of the atherosclerosis research unit at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

The basis of the tomato genetic intervention relies on the production of a peptide called 6F that mimics the action of appA-1, the chief protein in HDL. The researchers found that adding LPAs to the diet of mice altered gene expression in the small intestine. The researchers did not test whether adding the genetically enhanced tomato to the mice diet altered gene expression, although the assumption is that it did as they found that the peptide prevented an increase in the level of LPAs in the small intestine and also stopped increases in “bad” cholesterol, decreases in “good” cholesterol and systemic inflammation. Tomatoes that did not contain the peptide had no effect.

The long term effects of the genetic manipulation on human health has not been evaluated.


M. Navab, G. Hough, G. M. Buga, F. Su, A. C. Wagner, D. Meriwether, A. Chattopadhyay, F. Gao, V. Grijalva, J. S. Danciger, B. J. Van Lenten, E. Org, A. J. Lusis, C. Pan, G. M. Anantharamaiah, R. Farias-Eisner, S. S. Smyth, S. T. Reddy, A. M. Fogelman. Transgenic 6F tomatoes act on the small intestine to prevent systemic inflammation and dyslipidemia caused by Western diet and intestinally derived lysophosphatidic acid. The Journal of Lipid Research, 2013; 54 (12): 3403 DOI: 10.1194/jlr.M042051

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