10th October, 2011
Dr Christelle AndrÃ©, a post-doctoral researcher in the Nutrigenomics New Zealand programme, has discovered some potentially useful compounds for the first time in apples. Triterpene acid caffeates have been known for a while from the barks of trees, and been shown to have potentially useful anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties in cell culture experiments. Dr AndrÃ© has detected these compounds for the first time in apples, but not in every variety. They are most concentrated in the russetted apples, the ones with the naturally brown skins. Dr Andre, working with Dr William Laing and colleagues at Plant & Food Research, Mt Albert, had identified some of the genes controlling the levels of these compounds, which could be used in future breeding work.
Other apples contain different triterpene acids and polyphenolic catechins concentrated in their skins. Dr AndrÃ© found that these two different classes of natural products are both anti-inflammatory, but with different mechanisms of action. So these may act together to give health benefits, but do not peel your apples!
These results were presented in part at the Queenstown Molecular Biology Conference last year, and full publications are now being written up.
Dr Andreâ€™s post-doctoral work was funded in part by the â€œFonds national de la Rechercheâ€ of Luxembourg, and partly by Ministry for Science and Innovation. She has now returned to Belgium to work on â€œBiologie de la nutrition et toxicologie environnementaleâ€ at the UniversitÃ© catholique de Louvain.
Click here for a Radio New Zealand interview with Dr Nigel Perry about the research (opens mp3 file).