Don’t overinterpret this

by on November 8, 2012 at 8:44 am in Food and Drink, Science | Permalink

Still, it is an interesting development:

Researchers have developed a genetically modified tomato that produces a certain peptide which will lower the plaque buildup in the arteries of mice. This could also work in humans.

Here is more, via @Harpersnotes.

1 Andrew' November 8, 2012 at 9:31 am

“You are prescribed 3 pizzas, twice weekly.”

2 IVV November 8, 2012 at 9:58 am

But it’s a GMO, so it’s poison.

3 IVV November 8, 2012 at 10:01 am

Also, pure evil. Delicious, nutritious, life-saving evil.

4 rhodium November 8, 2012 at 10:29 am

So why not skip the middleman and put the gene in humans? You can almost do this in your garage now, at least to mice. Its coming to a genome near you sooner than you think. Maybe we could add that gene in the vitamin C synthesis pathway so we can make our own like most organisms as a first try.

5 sailordave November 8, 2012 at 10:45 am

I support GMO to improve food production, but how on earth can we put medicines into ordinary food without creating dangers of overdoses, drug interactions, and harmful effects on people who don’t have arterial plaque? the vitamin C example is perfect – – the attempts to use vitamin C to reduce cancer frequency have tended to instead increase cancer, so creating humans that create their own is simply dangerous unless we either tell those people to never eat fruit or we also build the complete genetic vitamin C level control pathways.for vitamin D, for example, the body has its own safe system for both creating and regulating vitamin D, but it is possible to get overdoses by taking too many supplements.

Give me individual medication tailored to my genome. Don’t mass-produce involuntary medication in my food supply.

6 Dan Weber November 8, 2012 at 12:48 pm

I don’t think they’d put it in every tomato. Although we do fortify our milk with vitamin D and iodize our salt and fluoridate our water, so who knows. We had a lot less freakouts back when those things were created, though.

(There’s a sci-fi / fantasy series by Kim Harrison where all the werewolves and vampires and witches come out of hiding after a genetic catastrophe wipes out half of humanity. The disaster was started via modified tomatoes, so humans freak out whenever they see one.)

7 Rahul November 8, 2012 at 1:06 pm

.for vitamin D, for example, the body has its own safe system for both creating and regulating vitamin D, but it is possible to get overdoses by taking too many supplements.

…or by eating bear liver apparently. Eating lots of bear liver can cause death. Not sure if that was by iron or Vit. D overdose though.

8 IVV November 8, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Vitamin A overdose. And it’s mainly via polar bear livers, although other cold-region carnivores like walrus and far-north dog breeds can also be toxic.

So don’t eat polar bear livers, mmkay?

9 Dan in Euroland November 8, 2012 at 11:04 am

Why not just eat regular tomatoes instead of the modern sugar based diet? I imagine that would help with the heart disease issue as well.

10 Derek I November 8, 2012 at 11:17 am

> Researchers have developed a genetically modified tomato
> This could also work in humans.

Genetically modified humans? 😉

11 Thor November 8, 2012 at 11:34 am

I THOUGHT Romney looked a bit robotic in those debates…

12 Andrew' November 8, 2012 at 11:23 am

In the past, the point of this kind of stuff was usually to use the cellular machinery as a source of the drug, usually a difficult to synthesize in the lab peptide, enzyme or protein, and then purify it into drug form, NOT to just put it in the food supply.

13 Andrew' November 8, 2012 at 11:28 am

Oh, and of importance, it is usually intended for people with a disease that makes them specifically lack the peptide or enzyme, not just to combat everyone’s crappy arteries by selling these to Domino’s Pizza. Not that technologies care about intentions, but typically it would be that someone has a non-functioning gene or cell (e.g. insulin) so you need a method for creating large amounts of what they can’t make on their own. This is particularly interesting in that you can just eat the tomatoes (or the rats can) rather than having to purify and inject the peptide.

14 Thor November 8, 2012 at 11:44 am

True, true, but what if the genetically modified Domino’s pizza is what the consumer will want? No prescription, no visit to the drugstore, just a “guarantee” (of sorts) that when you order your Hawaiian special, with extra sauce, you will be cleaning your arteries. (And gunking them up at the same time, via the rest of what is in the pizza.)

15 Rahul November 8, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Naive question: Before these wonder-tomatoes arrived did we have other processes for making this peptide? If so, are those processes way more expensive; if not why not just give people peptide-pills instead?

16 Joshua November 8, 2012 at 3:36 pm

I thought it was pretty clear heart disease (atherosclerosis) was an inflammatory problem. Plaque buildup was a symptom, not a cause, so clearing plaque buildup may do nothing for people.

17 ahow628 November 9, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Is Tomacco a real thing yet? Why are we wasting our time on a plaque removing tomato when Tomacco doesn’t even exist yet?

18 Master of None November 12, 2012 at 4:06 pm

If the history of the electric vehicle is any guide, we can expect a company like MedTronic (which makes stents) to buy the IP rights to the technology and shelve it.

Or, I suppose if you’re an optimist, you can look forward to waiting 10 years for FDA approval, and then pay hundreds of dollars for a prescription for the magic plaque-fighting tomatoes.

And god forbid you try to harvest seeds from the tomatoes to re-grow in your home garden, or a GMO food producer like Monsanto will sue you for patent violations (as they do to farmers who try to re-plant their GMO soybeans).

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