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BacHBERRY: soft fruit’s medical potential under the microscope

Berries (iStock)
"The research has been performed in an interdisciplinary environment with plant science, chemistry and industrial biotechnology working shoulder to shoulder with social and economic researchers and industrialists"

As the world’s population tries to adapt to climate change, many industries are still heavily reliant on fossil fuel resources to make components in the pharmaceutical, food, cosmetics and other sectors – but the plant kingdom, and particularly berry crops, may hold the key to breaking this dependence.

Over the past four years, the BacHBERRY project has investigated the sustainable use of diverse and complex natural molecules derived from berries for applications as diverse as bioactivity against type 2 diabetes, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

The EU-funded research collaboration featuring Institute scientists has found that some raspberry varieties contain a compound with promising bioactivity against Huntington’s disease. This compound is also present in the roots of a perennial flowering plant endemic in the Artic regions of Europe, Asia and North America that has been used for centuries in traditional medicine.

The BacHBERRY team identified the biosynthetic pathway that produces this bioactive compound and this has now been engineered in bacteria and yeast cells. These are currently undergoing pilot-scale fermentation trials to allow the bioactive ingredient to be produced at pharmaceutical-grade purity. This synthetic production route recreates how the compound occurs naturally but is independent of seasonality and climate conditions and minimises the impact on natural ecosystems.

Apart from this interesting compound, Hutton scientists identified various genetic regions associated with the levels of it found in raspberries. This work lays the foundations for the potential development of novel varieties with enhanced phytochemical profiles, which could translate into raspberry fruits with increased health benefits.

Professor Derek Stewart, the James Hutton Institute's agri-food business sector lead, said: “This combination of scientists and companies represents an exciting opportunity to capture real value from our diverse berry germplasm to address multiple end uses, in particular conditions such as Type II diabetes and debilitating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

“By lifting the biosynthetic pathways from berries and placing them in bacterial cell factories we have a full manageable, natural and sustainable production system for some potentially potent bioactive compounds that can be produced in high quantity and purity. 

“The research has been performed in an interdisciplinary environment with plant science, chemistry and industrial biotechnology working shoulder to shoulder with social and economic researchers and industrialists; a real paradigm for success!

“Bizarrely in some instances these berry-derived polyphenols also have potent antibacterial activities with several reports identifying their preventative activity against periodontal disease and caries.”

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Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).


Printed from /news/bachberry-soft-fruit%E2%80%99s-medical-potential-under-microscope on 22/03/19 04:57:12 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.