A team of undergrad researchers from John Hopkins University has genetically engineered a common yeast high in beta carotene for use in bread and other baked goods for consideration in the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition.
Called VitaYeast, the students created a synthetic DNA that was programmed to produce high levels of beta-carotene and synthesize necessary nutrients that the human body cannot produce on its own.
Beta-carotene produces a non-toxic form of vitamin A once in the human body, and according to the World Health Organization, reversing widespread deficiencies in vitamin A throughout the developing world could drastically reduce the large number of cases of preventable blindness in children; no word though on what side-effects and human health risks the GM yeast itself may have.
Regardless of whether or not the student research team’s project makes it to the finals of the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition, they plan to move forward with development. Citing the potential to curb malnutrition around the world, the team of researchers is also setting its sights on the possibility of creating a VitaYeast based starter dough that could be shared among large groups of people for relatively low costs. The bread would then be able to help reduce the incidence of a number of health issues related to vitamin deficiencies.
In an article published by NutraIngredients.com, John Hopkins University student and researcher Noah Young said that, “We’re not genetically modifying the wheat here, we’re not genetically modifying the flour or the water, we’re genetially modifying 1 percent of the bread recipe. When you bake Vita Bread you look at it and it looks like regular bread.”
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @Jillettinger