Published in Applied Research
Paul Debbie, director of technology transfer and assistant professor Joyce Van Eck hold the newly issued patent for boosting beta-carotene levels in potatoes and other crops. (Christianne White)
Scientists from Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) and Donald Danforth Plant Science Center are working towards developing vitamin A-enriched tubers. Assistant Professor Joyce Van Eck of BTI developed a new technique for building up beta-carotene, the precursor of vitamin A, in potatoes. With the help of experts from Danforth, this technique will be used to develop biofortified cassava roots.
The new technique includes inserting of a specially designed DNA segment into the genome of potato to turn off the gene that codes for the enzyme that converts beta-carotene into zeaxanthin, a carotenoid like beta-carotene but cannot be converted into vitamin A. This then leads to accumulation of beta-carotene, in such amount that is enough to satisfy up to 18 percent of a toddler's required daily intake of vitamin A. The team is planning to add more strategies to further increase the levels of beta-carotene. 
Van Eck is now working with the Danforth team to transfer the technology to cassava plants. If successful, the vitamin A-enriched cassava will help decrease the number of children with vitamin A deficiency (VAD), particularly in Africa and South Asia where VAD is prevalent.

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