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Levodopa from Tomatoes

Scientists from the John Innes Centre have produced a tomato enriched with L-DOPA, the gold standard for oral Parkinson’s drugs, in use since the 1960s

With Parkinsonism currently affecting over 10 million people, an affordable source of one of the world's most essential medicines has encouraged researchers. 

This innovative use of tomato as a natural source of L-DOPA offers advantages for people who experience adverse effects, including nausea and behavioural difficulties, from chemically manufactured L-DOPA.

Tomato was transformed by adding a gene responsible for the synthesis of L-DOPA in beetroot, where it produces the pigment betalains.

L-DOPA is produced from tyrosine, an amino acid found in many foods, including cheese. The research team implanted a gene encoding a tyrosinase, an enzyme that utilizes tyrosine to develop molecules such as L-DOPA. 

This raised L-DOPA level specifically in the fruit part of the plant, with the new varieties carrying levels of 150mg of L-DOPA per kilo.

The development of the genetically modified (GM) tomato has implications for developing nations where pharmaceutical drugs are restricted. Scientists now aim to create a production pipeline to extract L-DOPA from tomatoes and purify it for pharmaceutical use.

Source: John Innes Centre. "Tomatoes offer affordable source of Parkinson's disease drug." ScienceDaily

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