WIKIMEDIA, JOHANN GEORG STURM/JACOB STURMResearchers at UK biotech Rothamsted Research have generated a transgenic plant that produces omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are vital for normal metabolism. In a paper published in The Plant Journal last month (December 6), the researchers described a set of genes that regulate the synthesis of omega-3 fatty acids in the seed oil of the crop Camelina sativa. With directed expression of these genes, the transgenic C. sativa produces omega-3s at levels “equivalent to those in fish oils, and represent a sustainable, terrestrial source of these fatty acids,” the authors wrote in their paper.
“[W]e had to understand really well the fundamental processes that underpin oil synthesis in seeds of plants in order to be able to reconstitute the synthesis of EPA and DHA in the seeds of Camelina,” study coauthor Olga Sayanova said in a statement.
Study coauthor Johnathan Napier told New Scientist that while transgenic C. sativa cannot alone meet global demand for omega-3 fatty acid production, the plants could help “significantly take the pressure off fish stocks.” While fish oils are the primary source of natural omega-3s, some plant oils also contain these fatty acids. Aside from the transgenic C. sativa, omega-3 fatty acids are found flaxseed oil and hemp oil, among other plant sources.