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Haryana Farmers Demand Compensation for Crop Loss Due to Unseasonal Rains & Hailstorms

Edible products like tomatoes and yeast contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory chemicals that can be utilized to make drugs to treat eye problems.

Shivani Meena
Crop damaged due to rainfall
Crop damaged due to rainfall

Enea, an Italian government research institute, has patented a method for synthesizing an important class of bioactive chemicals. The compounds have been shown to defend against maculopathy, a retinal degenerative disease that is expected to impact 288 million people worldwide by 2040, according to recent research.

Edible products like tomatoes and yeast contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory chemicals that can be utilized to make drugs to treat eye problems. They are also applicable to the food and cosmetics sectors.

Crocin from Saffron crocus

The innovative aspect of the process allows for the manufacture of compounds like crocin, a chemical component found mostly in the flowers of the saffron crocus. Crocin and carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, in particular, have been shown to protect against maculopathy. This type of eye disease causes blurry vision in the center of the eye.

The saffron crocus is only farmed on a small scale in several parts of the world.

"To make all of the crocin needed to prevent maculopathy, the world's production of saffron, an expensive and rare spice, would have to be quadrupled." In addition, everything would have to be allocated for this purpose," explains Sarah Frusciante, a biotechnology researcher at Enea. The procedure is also patented by her and three others. The findings were published in the journal 'Plant Physiology' recently.

Bixa Orellana from Orlean tree

"Our discovery opens up a new scenario for the safe and low-cost synthesis of these compounds," Frisciante says, "showing that biotechnology allows for the manufacture of crocin in safe, edible products like yeast and tomato."

"We've discovered a new enzyme in the Orlean tree (scientific name: Bixa orellana) that can synthesize crocin from carotenoids that are commonly accessible, such as beta-carotene from carrots and lycopene from tomatoes, and it works in conjunction with several other enzymes we've discovered in previous studies."

The ENEA research has resulted in two patents and eight papers, opening the road for plant-based crocin manufacturing.

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