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Genes behind arsenic in food identified
13 September 2010
In many countries arsenic in food is a major problem. But researchers at the University of Skövde in Sweden have now identified two genes that may play a crucial role in how arsenic is stored in plants.
Scientists at the University of Skövde have analyzed databases with genetic information and identified two genes that may play a major role in the aggregation of arsenic in plants. When the researchers used computers to simulate inhibiting or over-expressing the function of these genes, they managed to reduce the arsenic content in a plant by up to 12 percent.
The research team will soon take their findings into the lab to try to reproduce the results of the computer simulations in reality.
Food that contains arsenic is a major problem above all in Asia. Arsenic is stored in the body and can eventually cause damage to the liver, kidneys, and heart. The poison can also lead to the development of cancer in humans.
Arsenic winds up in food when plants – such as rice – take up the poison from the soil. Grazing animals can also ingest arsenic from plants. When the animals are slaughtered for food, the arsenic is passed on to humans who eat the meat.
In their continued work the Swedish scientists will be collaborating with colleagues in Bangladesh, Poland, and the US. Bangladesh is one of the countries with the greatest prevalence of arsenic in food.
The researchers work at Systems Biology Research Center at the University of Skövde. They are publishing their new findings in Journal of Biological Systems.