JAU Scientists Gene-editing Cholesterol out of Groundnut Oil

Soon, weight watchers and those with high cholesterol won’t have to think twice before picking up the jar of groundnut oil from supermarkets.

Scientists are all set to help farmers grow groundnut which will be free of cholesterol, the waxy substance most dreaded for clogging arteries.

Using the latest genome editing technology, a team of researches at Junagadh Agriculture University (JAU) have started working on making cholesterol-free groundnut. Genome editing essentially means changing the sequence of DNA in the cell in order to improve the crop’s quality.

Gujarat, especially Saurashtra, is the largest groundnut producer in India with farmers growing a record 32 lakh tonnes in 2017. JAU is the only third university in India after Mohali Agriculture University and Jawaharlal Nehru University to start using CRISPR/Cas9, the gene-editing technique by which parts of DNA are either removed or replaced with accuracy.

According to JAU scientists, two types of fatty acids- oleic acid and linoleic acids (OL) – make for 80% of oil in the groundnut. linoleic acid raises cholesterol levels while oleic acid reduces this waxy substance often associated with heart diseases.

Dr Rukamsinh Tomar, an assistant professor in JAU biotechnology department, said, “We are studying ways to edit the genes and decrease the levels of linoleic acid in groundnut. Once successfully done, groundnut oil will become cholesterol-free just like sesame seed oil.”

At Mohali, scientists used the same technology to improve the nutritional value of bananas.

Groundnut (peanut) oil (Image credit: http://coolcocoday.in)
Groundnut (peanut) oil (Image credit: http://coolcocoday.in)


There are three famous seeds varieties in Saurashtra — GG-20, GG-22 and GG-33 — and JAU is experimenting with genome editing in all of them. The most famous variety is GG-20 where the ratio of two fatty acids is 3.2, which is considered better for human health.

Head of the biotechnology department, B A Golakia, said, “The US has developed these kinds of seeds and we are in the process of doing the same at JAU. It could take us two years to achieve success.”

According to scientists, if the same process is done through traditional methods like cross-breeding, it would take seven or eight years to develop and another four years to pass regulatory proceedings. Genome editing can reduce this time to two or three years to get the same result.

Another advantage of genome editing is that it would reduce rancidity, the spoilage of groundnut due to exposure to moisture, which causes extremely unpleasant taste and odour.

Written by Nimesh Khakhariya in the Times of India. See original article link here.