Washington: Scientists have developed a new technology that uses grated carrot to obtain natural compounds which they claim have the potential to prevent cancer, flu, cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative conditions.
Researchers from the FEMSA Center of Biotechnology at Technologic of Monterrey (ITESM) designed the technique, which also allows them to obtain shikimic acid - a substance which is a raw material used to produce antiviral drugs for influenza.
Currently the production of bioactive compounds in plants is accomplished by genetic engineering; however, this new process employs an alternate technique in which the tissue is stressed by cutting and applying herbicides.
The project, lead by Daniel Alberto Jacobo Velazques, won the National Award in Food Science and Technology (PNCTA) 2012 in the Technology Professional in Food category.
The award has been given and organised for 37 years by the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT) and the Mexican Industry of Coca-Cola.
Velazques 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 optimisation of the production so the plant tissue will secrete more of this compounds," Velazques said.
"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," Velazques added.
Velazques 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.
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 neutralisation of free radicals in the blood stream, preventing chronic degenerative diseases.