New and improved lettuce makes for a healthier crunch

The saying "a cheeseburger a day keeps the doctor away" doesn't exist - at least not yet. But thanks to a recent gene-editing breakthrough from Israeli scientists, your topping-laden burger - whether beef, turkey, or veggie - could soon be made more nutritious.

Earlier this month, these scientists announced that they'd developed a variety of lettuce with higher concentrations of key nutrients like vitamin C and beta-carotene. In just 2 cups of this healthful lettuce - that's equivalent to a small salad - ruffage connoisseurs could meet their entire recommended daily intake of vitamin C.

The secret is a unique technology called CRISPR-Cas, which uses an enzyme to make small genetic alterations to a given organism's genetic code. Akin to a biological "copy-paste" function, scientists can use CRISPR to rearrange a plant's genes to produce desired results. In this case, the team at Hebrew University pinpointed the lettuce genes that code for nutritional content and slightly tweaked them so the plants would produce more.

And while this may be the most recent gene-editing breakthrough of note, it's certainly not the only one. The new super-lettuce rests on years of successful research into how gene-editing might hold the key to making our foods more nourishing, nutritious, and sustainable. In 2020, scientists in California announced that they'd employed gene-editing tools to develop a strain of rice - the world's most popular grain - with higher levels  of carotenoid, a key component of vitamin A. And in 2018, researchers used CRISPR to produce tomatoes with five times the concentration of lycopene, an important antioxidant.

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