Folate is a vitamin essential to human health, yet the human body is unable to make it. This vitamin is present in abundance in green leafy vegetables and legumes, but most staple crops, such as rice and other cereals, contain very little amounts. Thus, folate deficiency is highly prevalent in developing countries. Compounding this problem it is known that the vitamins are unstable molecules, degrading easily upon contact with oxygen, light, humidity, increased temperature and due to changes in acidity. This stability problem is more severe in developing countries where storage in high temperature and high humidity is inevitable.
In this context, as per reports it has been revealed that researchers from Ghent University in the Netherlands succeeded in stabilizing folates in biofortified rice, which can offer a solution to serious health problems caused by folate deficiency in developing countries. According to the findings it was possible to stabilize high folate content in a new rice prototype by adopting two strategies. In first strategy, it comprised the binding of folates with a folate binding protein and this protein is unknown in plants, however, it is well documented in mammals. The folate generally occurs in milk and it protects from degradation. Thus, through this way intact of folates are passed on from the mother to her infant, to support its development. By expressing a synthetic gene, based on a folate binding protein from bovine milk, in the rice grain, the same principle has been applied and folate content remains stable upon long term storage.
Moreover, the researchers claim that the developed technology could be used to enhance other vitamins or certain minerals in rice and in other crops such as cereals and non-cereals. The team’s research work has been published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.