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Researchers in Israel have found a way to genetically enhance the smell of flowers:…….CLICK & SEE

Plant biotechnologist Alexander Vainstein
The beautiful camellias in the vase really brighten up your room. How many times have you wondered why the room doesn’t smell with a fragrance that matches the camellias’ beauty? If a team of Israeli scientists have their way, however, they may soon leave you with no room to rue.

These researchers claim to have discovered a way to genetically boost the smell of flowers and even introduce scents in those that don’t have any.

The scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have been able to create transgenic petunias and carnations which smell like roses. They have also swapped smells between carnations and petunias, according to a research paper published in Plant Biotechnology Journal.

“We’ve found a way of enhancing the scent of a flower (Petunia hybrida) 10-fold and make it emit a scent during day and night — irrespective of the natural rhythm of scent production,” said Alexander Vainstein, the lead scientist at the University’s Institute of Plant Science and Genetics in Agriculture. In addition, they also have devised a way to boost the colour of flowers. The novel ‘biotechnolgical strategy’ to ‘activate scent and colour production’ in flowers could eventually be used to create tastier fruits and vegetables that have turned bland because of repeated cross-breeding and excessive use of pesticides.

“Smell plays an important role in our lives — it influences the way we choose fruit and vegetables, perfumes, and even a partner,” said Vainstein in a statement. “Aromas define not just fragrance but the taste of food, too.”

According to Vainstein, in Nature “flower colour and fragrance are the two main means adopted by plants to attract pollinators (such as bees and beetles), thereby ensuring reproductive success.”

The intensity of a flower’s scent largely depends on factors like the time of day, the plant’s age, crossbreeding and so on. “Many flowers have lost their scent owing to repeated breeding over the years. Recent technological developments — including ours — will help create flowers with an increased scent as well as produce novel scent components in the flowers.”

Such an innovation could not only help create new genetic variability for breeding purposes, but also offer the plant an advantage in survival and to evolve. In other words, the technique will make flowers more fragrant and draw more pollinating insects towards the plant, aiding better reproduction and survival. “The knowledge gained from an understanding of mechanisms leading to floral scent production or emission should provide us with a better insight into Nature’s way of ensuring evolutionary success, as well as with advanced tools for the metabolic engineering of fragrance,” said Vainstein.

However, such genetic engineering may not work as expected, believes Tapas Ghose, a botanist at Bose Institute, Calcutta. “It is difficult to predict whether pollinators will love the novel scent. It can attract pests too,” said Ghose. According to him it is too early to smell success with the genetically modified flower unless there is a prolonged field test along with definitive ecological studies.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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Fish Oil Linked to Lower Alzheimer’s Risk

A substance found in fish oil may be associated with a significantly reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other dementias, researchers reported yesterday…….click & see

The scientists found that people with the highest blood levels of an omega-3 fatty acid called docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, were about half as likely to develop dementia as those with lower levels.

The substance is one of several omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fatty fish and, in small amounts, in some meats. It is also sold in fish oil or DHA supplements. The researchers looked for a reduced risk associated with seven other omega-3 fatty acids, but only DHA had any effect.

The study, in the November’06 issue of The Archives of Neurology, used data from the Framingham Heart Study to follow 899 initially healthy participants, with a median age of 76, for an average of more than nine years.

The scientists assessed DHA and fish intake using a questionnaire and obtained complete dietary data on more than half the subjects. They took blood samples from all the participants to determine serum levels of fatty acids.

Ninety-nine people developed dementia over the course of the study, including 71 cases of Alzheimer’s disease. The average level of DHA among all the participants was 3.6 percent of all fatty acids, and the top 25 percent of the population had values above 4.2 percent. People in this top one-quarter in DHA levels had a 47 percent reduced risk of developing dementia, even after controlling for body mass index, diabetes, hypertension, smoking status and other known or suspected risks. Risk reduction was apparent only at that top level of DHA — those in the bottom three-quarters in DHA level showed no detectable difference in risk.

People who ate two or more servings of fish a week reduced their risk for dementia by 39 percent, but there was no effect on the risk for dementia among those who ate less than that.

The finding that DHA alone reduces risk, the authors write, is consistent with earlier data showing high levels of DHA in healthy brain tissue and low levels in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Ernst J. Schaefer, the lead author of the study, was cautious in interpreting the results.

“This study doesn’t prove that eating fish oil prevents dementia,” he said. “It’s an observational study that presents an identified risk factor, and the next step is a randomized placebo-controlled study in people who do not yet have dementia.” Dr. Schaefer is chief of the Lipid Metabolism Laboratory at Tufts University.
The study was financed in part by Martek, a concern that manufactures DHA, and one author received a grant from Pfizer, France.

Eating fish is not a guarantee of having high levels of DHA. In fact, fish intake accounted for less than half of the variability in DHA levels. Other dietary intake and genetic propensities probably account for the rest. Dr. Schaefer pointed out that the kind of fish consumed is important. Fatty fish, he said, is best, and frying will cause DHA to deteriorate.

Supplements may be an additional source of DHA, but an editorial in the same issue, by Dr. Martha Clare Morris, an associate professor of medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, points out that there are no published human studies of the effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. The Food and Drug Administration does not endorse DHA or fish oil capsules, but recognizes doses of up to 3 grams a day of fish oil as generally safe. High intakes of fish oil can cause excessive bleeding in some people.

Dr. Morris writes that there are few human studies examining the effect of mercury intake from eating seafood, and it is not known if the risks of eating fish outweigh the benefits.

But, she adds, epidemiological studies consistently show positive health effects from fish consumption on mortality, cardiovascular risk factors and, now, dementia.

Source:The New York Times