12 January - 20 June 2016

Plant genes not expressed in humans

3 July 13

A research study from John Hopkins University School of Medicine, published in RNA Biology, casts doubt on the idea that genetic material in the food we eat plays any part in affecting our own gene expression. Their work, which essentially involved feeding lettuce-based smoothies to monkeys, then looking for evidence of lettuce RNA (similar to DNA) in the monkey's genome, also undermines fears that genetically modified foods could have any negative consequence for consumers.  A key part of the John Hopkins study was that they looked for the 'lettuce RNA' fragments both before and after consumption, and found huge variations in positive and negative findings. Rather than suggesting that lettuce RNA had transferred across the gut and into the monkey's own genetic code, the John Hopkins team proposes that similar sequences were already part of the monkey's natural genome. Any 'lettuce RNA' found post consumption was simply monkey RNA that was already there.  The John Hopkins team does not completely rule out the possibility of transfer of genetic information. They conclude that, "While our results do not support general and consistent uptake of dietary plant miRNAs, additional studies are needed to establish whether or not plant or animal xenomiRs are transferred across the gut in sufficient quantity to regulate endogenous genes." However, they also make it clear that a specific study by a Chinese team, which had provided 'evidence' of transfer, had probably found false positive results.

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