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Can potatoes help fight disease?

Potatoes (c) James Hutton Institute
“We believe there is considerable potential for harvesting the foliage and extracting added value from the potato crop.

As one of the world's most important food crops, potatoes have got everything you need to survive – but could they also help produce the drugs needed to treat illnesses? Researchers at the James Hutton Institute are investigating the feasibility of extracting added value from the potato crop by making use of a high-value compound present in the foliage and stems of potato plants.

Besides being employed in the manufacture of coenzyme Q10, found in many cosmetics and drugs, solanesol may have interesting health properties by itself, such as anti-bacterial, anti-inflammation and anti-ulcer effects. It is estimated that potato plants produce over 5 tonnes per hectare of stems and foliage, so far treated as a waste by-product, but which may contain up to 40kg of solanesol.

Dr Mark Taylor, senior researcher at the James Hutton Institute’s Cell and Molecular Sciences group and co-author of the study, said there are huge possibilities for the commercial exploration of the production of solanesol from potato crops.

“We believe there is considerable potential for harvesting the foliage and extracting added value from the potato crop. Our combined approaches offer new insights into how solanesol accumulates and gives insight on developing a biorefinery approach to potato production.”

Professor Derek Stewart, research leader at the Institute, commented: “Building on our expertise in potato research we are working with international partners to mine the wonderful diversity of natural compounds in wild and cultivated potato, for bio-activity against a range of degenerative conditions as well as for potential pain relief. In addition, we are delivering to the Scottish and EU circular economy agendas by adding value to crop co-products previously thought of as waste”.

The research is supported in part by and the Scottish Government but mainly by the European Union Framework Program 7 DISCO grant, “From discovery to products: A next generation pipeline for the sustainable generation of high-value plant products.” The paper Environmental and Genetic Factors Associated with Solanesol Accumulation in Potato Leaves is published in the latest issue of the journal Frontiers in Plant Science.

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Printed from /news/can-potatoes-help-fight-disease on 05/12/23 12:50:02 PM

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.