Life-saving bananas undergo human trials

Monday, June 16, 2014

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researchers have engineered bananas grown in far north Queensland to increase the levels of beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body.

The goal, they say, is to stop thousands of children in Uganda and the surrounding countries from going blind and dying from vitamin A deficiency.

And now they’ve successfully bent the banana genome, it’s being tested on humans for the first time.

About 10 kilograms of the yellow fruit – with orange flesh – grown near Innisfail have just been shipped to Iowa State University, where the trials are being conducted.

Five Ugandan PhD students are working with leader Professor James Dale on the nine-year project, on which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent $10 million.

Professor Dale said that by 2020 vitamin A-enriched banana varieties will be grown by farmers in Uganda, where about 70 per cent of the population survive on the fruit.

Source: 9News (link opens in a new window)

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