Development of Bananas with Optimized Bioavailable Micronutrients
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Dr. James L. Dale, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia - AU
Optimisation of Bioavailable Nutrients in Transgenic Bananas
Research ObjectivesProject Progress & Milestones

Deficiencies in Vitamin A and iron are major contributors to malnutrition in many developing countries. In Uganda, for example, deficiencies in these two micronutrients are causing night blindness and iron-deficiency anemia. The problem of insufficient nutrition particularly affects Ugandan mothers and children. More than 38 percent of Ugandan children younger than 5 years are stunted due to malnutrition.

Bananas are the major staple food in Uganda, where the average person consumes more than 1 kilogram of the fruit each day. Banana-based diets, however, are deficient in vitamin A and iron, as well as in vitamin E. A promising long-term solution to this problem may be to genetically modify crops, including bananas, so that they contain high levels of essential nutrients.

Dr. Dale is leading a team of scientists in Australia, Uganda, and the United States who are attempting to genetically modify bananas raised in Uganda so that their content of vitamin A, vitamin E, and iron is equal to or exceeds the required daily allowance.
The team is continuing to research the development of “high efficiency” banana transformation systems. Their work is focused on two areass:

  • The isolation of plant or plant-derived anti-apoptosis genes. 
  • The development of systems to express anti-apoptosis genes only at the time of transformation.
Research Objectives:
Generate transgenic Cavendish bananas expressing either increased pro-vitamin A, vitamin E, or iron
Field test and analyze these transgenic Cavendish plants
Establish Ugandan cultivar transformation at the country''s National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO)
Generate transgenic Ugandan cultivars expressing either increased pro-vitamin A, vitamin E or iron
Establish a field trial of transgenic Ugandan cultivars expressing either increased pro-vitamin A, vitamin E, or iron
Establish a network in East Africa for the indexing, micropropagation, and distribution of high quality banana planting material to farmers
Enhance banana transformation efficiency to ensure that sufficient lines of both Cavendish and East African Highland bananas are generated
Maximize the acceptance of the micronutrient-enhanced East African Highland bananas
Project Progress & Milestones:
Investigators generated transgenic Cavendish bananas that express either pro-vitamin A, vitamin E, or iron. They isolated a large suite of both fruit-specific and constitutive promoters that drive pro-vitamin A, vitamin E, or iron accumulation genes, and cloned these promoters into vectors. Investigators have transformed Cavendish banana cells with combinations of these genes, and the cells now are on regeneration media. The resulting plants will be ready for field planting in Australia in mid-2008, subject to regulatory approval.
At the National Agricultural Research Organisation in Uganda, the team established regenerable cell suspension lines in six cultivars of Eastern Africa Highland bananas. A transformation protocol has been developed in East African Highland bananas. Four cultivars, Nakinyika, Mpologoma, Nakasabira, and Sukalindizi, have been transformed with pro-vitamin A or iron accumulation genes.
Investigators have generated transgenic Ugandan cultivars that express either increased pro-vitamin A, vitamin E, or iron.
ProCell, Inc., Maryland, United States - US
National Agricultural Research Organisation, Uganda - UG
Africa Harvest, AHBFI, Nairobi, Kenya - KE
Kawanda Agricultural Research Institute, KARI, Kampala, Uganda - UG
Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute, MARI, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, United Republic of - TZ
Beyer's Lab, Freiberg, Germany - DE
Sayre's Lab, Ohio State University, Ohio, United States - US

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