New bananas can save the lives of thousands of children

New developed banana type contains a lot of provitamin A
Researchers have managed to grow special bananas that contain a lot of provitamin A. These so-called biofortified fruits could help to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of children who die each year from a deficiency in this vitamin.

The scientists at the Queensland University of Technology succeeded in generating a banana that contains a lot of provitamin A. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Plant Biotechnology Journal".

Experts are developing new types of bananas
Researchers in Australia have now succeeded in growing a particularly meaty banana that is rich in provitamin A. This provitamin is converted into vitamin A by the human body. The biofortified bananas were developed using the experts genes from a banana species from Papua New Guinea that is rich in provitamin A but only produces small fruits. These genes were combined with a so-called Cavendish banana, a very high-performance type of banana, the doctors say. The new bio-certified bananas have been developed by researchers over the past ten years with the help of $ 7.6 million in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The value of provitamin A has more than doubled
In the study, the team presented results from their evidence of a field trial in Australia. In this, the goal was to achieve a certain concentration of provitamin A within the fruit. With the new type of banana, this goal was not only achieved, but even exceeded, the authors of the study explain. The scientists more than doubled the value of provitamin A.

Hundreds of different genetic variations have been tested
Over the years, we've been able to develop a banana that has excellent provitamin A levels, the researchers explain. Achieving these scientific results is an important milestone in the effort to provide nutrition for some of the poorest communities in Africa. We have tested hundreds of different genetic variations in our lab and field trials in Queensland until we finally get the best results, the experts explain.

Field trials in Uganda are said to replicate the results
The genes produced were sent to Uganda in test tubes, where they were inserted into Ugandan bananas for field trials. The next stage will be field trials in Uganda to replicate the results. Cooked bananas are a staple in rural parts of Uganda, doctors say. Bananas rich in provitamin A could help people there to significantly improve their diet.

At best, the new bananas will be successfully grown in Uganda by 2021
An estimated 750,000 children die of vitamin A deficiency each year, and hundreds of thousands of children go blind as a result of this deficiency, the authors say. There are significant drops in the supply of vitamin A in children between the ages of six months and five years worldwide, the researchers further explain. In Uganda, the prevalence of children with vitamin A deficiency was 20 percent in 2006. In 2011 it had increased to 38 percent. The so-called East African highland cook banana is an excellent source of starch, it is harvested green and then chopped and steamed, the scientists explain. But this type of banana has a low concentration of micronutrients, especially provitamin A and iron. The researchers are now hoping that their bananas can be successfully grown by Ugandan farmers by 2021 at the latest. (as)

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