Researchers from the FEMSA Center of Biotechnology at Technologic of Monterrey (ITESM) designed a technology that uses grated carrot to obtain phenolic compounds that have a potential to prevent cancer, and cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.
Besides, with this alternate process to genetic engineering for the overproduction of bioactive compounds in vegetable tissue, shikimic acid was obtained, which is raw material in the production of an antiviral for the treatment against flu.
This project, lead by Daniel Alberto Jacobo Velázques, won the National Award in Food Science and Technology (PNCTA) 2012 in the Technology Professional in Food category. This award has been given and organized for 37 years by the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT) and the Mexican Industry of Coca-Cola. The development has already applied for a patent of production, extraction and purification of phenolic compounds and shikimic acid using the proposed technology.
Daniel Jacobo explained that they activate the carrot's metabolism using cut stress (grating), and then the carbon flow of its metabolism is modulated by applying an herbicide called glyphosate that inhibits enzymes. This technique makes it possible to accumulate great amounts of shikimic acid and phenolic compounds in the plant tissue.
"The first four parts of the research have been completed, we have figured out the mechanism by which the carrot produces this compounds when subjected to stress. Now, we look for the optimization of the production so the plant tissue will secrete more of this compounds. Afterwards we'd like to extract them to produce dietary supplements and shikimic acid. The shikimic acid is the raw material that the pharmaceutical industry needs to produce Tamiflu, a useful drug in the treatment against flu".
The specialist from the Technologic of Monterrey (ITESM) said that they used carrot because it responds to different types of stress and it's cultivated worldwide so this technology could be extrapolated to other parts of the globe. This process gives an added value to the vegetables, because in Mexico tons of them are wasted every year.
Besides the extraction of the shikimic acid, phenolic compounds are obtained, which help to prevent diseases in humans, mostly because its antioxidant potential that aids in the neutralization of free radicals in the blood stream, preventing chronic degenerative diseases.
Daniel Alberto Jacobo Velázquez pointed that currently, shikimic acid is extracted from the Star anise, which is only produced in China; in contrast, the carrot is cultivated in many regions across the planet.
Currently the production of bioactive compounds in plants is accomplished by genetic engineering; however, this approach by the Tech of Monterrey employs an alternate technique in which the tissue is stressed by cutting and applying herbicides.
Explore further: Scientists find clues to cancer drug failure