Eating new transgenic rice could lower high blood pressure
We've already heard about genetically manipulated types of rice that are drought-resistant and antioxidant-rich. A new one, however, could potentially save the lives of people with high blood pressure.
A leading cause of heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure (aka hypertension) is often treated with drugs known as ACE inhibitors. These target the angiotensin converting enzyme in the patient's hormonal system – that enzyme can cause hypertension by narrowing the blood vessels. Unfortunately, though, such medications may produce unwanted side effects such as kidney impairment, rashes, headaches and dry coughs.
Foods like fish, meat, eggs, milk and some plants contain natural ACE-inhibiting peptides (amino acids), that produce fewer side effects. According to scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, though, isolating large amounts of those peptides from the foods is a time-consuming and expensive process.
Instead, the researchers created a gene consisting of nine ACE-inhibitory peptides and one blood vessel-relaxing peptide, that were all linked together. When that gene was introduced to rice plants, the resulting transgenic rice was found to contain high levels of the peptides.
Two hours after receiving peptides extracted from that rice, hypertensive rats showed a significant decline in blood pressure. By contrast, a control group that received proteins from regular rice plants did not.
Additionally, a drop in blood pressure was observed in rats that received flour made from the transgenic rice (via stomach injections), over the course of five weeks. The effect still remained one week after the end of the treatment period, and no obvious side effects were noted.
It is now believed that if the human body reacts in a similar fashion, a 150-lb (68-kg) adult would need to consume no more than about half a tablespoon of the rice daily in order to treat and prevent hypertension.
A paper on the study was published this week in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Source: American Chemical Society