Friday, February 01, 2008

Love onions? Too macho to cry?

Scientists have the answer:
A tear-free onion that should be tastier and healthier has been created by using genetic tinkering to turn off the enzyme that makes us cry.
The onions, which can be chopped without painful, stingy, weeping eyes, have been tested in the laboratory by New Zealand Crop & Food Research scientist Dr Colin Eady, with his collaborators in Japan.
"If the research progresses well, would like to see them become the household and industry norm within the next decade," says Dr Eady.
The research team has been unable to induce tearing by crushing their model tearless onions, which emerged from a discovery by Japanese scientists of the gene behind the tears. "When you slice the vegetable, it doesn't produce tears."
The key is not to introduce a foreign gene but to silence one using a phenomenon called RNA interference. By stopping sulphur compounds from being converted to the tearing agent and redirecting them into compounds responsible for flavour and health, the process could even improve the onion.

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