Scientists of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) are dedicated to the study of metabolic processes of chili peppers, such as serrano and habanero, which have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, which makes them potential fruits for innovation in pharmacological production.
Rogelio Rodríguez Sotres of the Faculty of Chemistry (FQ) of UNAM, explained that the objective of the research is focused on understanding the way pyrophosphatase enzymes work in chili, since they are responsible for carrying out its metabolic process.
The Biochemistry Department also seeks to manipulate the chili plant in a non-transgenic way: “we investigated the production of substances that give them their characteristic flavor, such as capsaicinoids, which make them spicy,” explained Rodríguez Sotres, leader of the investigation. This chemical compound is also used as a medicine for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic capacity.
Image: DGCS UNAM
“We intend to modify this organism, but with the plant’s own gene pool; that is, evade transgenes (genes taken from other species). With this, varieties with beneficial properties could be obtained more quickly, with applications in the food industry, dyes and flavors, and in pharmacy, mainly as anti-inflammatories and analgesics, “explained the professor, in a statement from the Maximum House of Studies.
However, this implies a great challenge, since the chili has a natural mechanism to avoid the intrusion of genetic alteration procedures. “Transforming, selecting and regenerating the plant is a process that has not been consistently achieved, and we continue working on it to understand where the barriers are to produce agricultural varieties that, without being transgenic, may have desirable and novel characteristics,” said the investigator.
UNAM scientists have worked with serrano and habanero peppers, and have tested with jalapeño and sweet peppers, as their pigments could replace the chemical dyes that are usually used in a variety of edible products, which are rich in vitamins C and E, powerful antioxidants.