A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

Making Sour into Sweet

Have you ever heard of miracle fruit, a berry from Ghana? For about an hour after you eat it, everything sour tastes sweet.

Because miracle fruit is so delicate, scientists for years have tried to genetically engineer other organisms to produce miraculin. This led to a series of failures. In the 1990s, researchers tried unsuccessfully to alter tobacco plants, yeasts and even E. coli bacteria to produce the same protein, which is one of seven known to have a sweetening effect, but the only one that turns sour to sweet.

Last year, a team of scientists led by Hiroshi Ezura, a professor at Tsukuba University near Tokyo, said they finally succeeded — with lettuce. In a scientific report published in Federation of European Biochemical Societies Letters, the researchers wrote that two grams produce roughly the same effect as one miracle fruit.

Mr. Ezura, who is collaborating with Inplanta Innovations Inc., a Japanese biotech company, says his team next hopes to develop a genetically modified tomato, possibly for commercial use as a low-calorie sweetener or as an additive for foods targeting diabetics, since it removes the need for sugar.

Read the full article: To Make Lemons Into Lemonade, Try ‘Miracle Fruit’

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