Tomatoes could be an important source of vitamin D.

Vitamin D deficiency is linked to a number of health issues worldwide, so eating more fruits and vegetables is recommended. John Innes Centre researchers found a way to boost vitamin D in tomatoes using gene editing.

UVB light exposes our bodies to vitamin D, but food is the main source. The new biofortified crop could help millions with vitamin D deficiency, which is linked to cancer, dementia, and other leading causes of death. Recent studies link vitamin D deficiency to Covid-19 infection severity.

In winter and at higher latitudes, the sun isn't strong enough for the body to produce vitamin D naturally.

Tomato leaves contain provitamin D3 in low levels. Ripe tomatoes don't accumulate provitamin D3. Researchers used CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing to add provitamin D3 to tomato fruit.

The edited plants' dry leaves contained 600 ug of provitamin D3 per gramme. Adults need 10 ug of vitamin D daily. This may not sound beneficial since tomato leaves are discarded. The edited plants' leaves can make vitamin D3 supplements.

“We've shown that tomatoes can be biofortified with provitamin D3 using gene editing,” said study co-author Cathie Martin.

One billion people worldwide and 40% of Europeans have vitamin D deficiency. We're addressing a huge health problem and helping farmers by using tomato leaves to make supplements from gene-edited lines.

Gene-editing didn't affect tomato growth, development, or yield. One tomato had as much vitamin D as two medium eggs or 28 grammes of tuna. Sun-drying ripe fruit may increase the vitamin D content.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted vitamin D insufficiency and its impact on immune function and health, said study author Dr. Jie Li.


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