Skip to Content
Biotechnology

CRISPR might soon create spicy tomatoes by switching on their chili genes

Looking for perfect heat and lots of it? Gene engineers in Brazil think they might be able to create eye-watering tomatoes.

Hot stuff: Even though chili peppers and tomato plants diverged from a common ancestor millions of years ago, tomatoes still possess the genetic pathway needed to make capsaicinoids, the molecules that make chilis hot.

Now, Agustin Zsögön from the Federal University of Viçosa in Brazil writes in the journal Trends in Plant Science that gene-editing tools like CRISPR could turn it back on.

Spicy biofactories: Tomatoes are much easier to grow than peppers, so making them hot could turn them into spice factories. “Capsaicinoids are very valuable compounds; they are used in [the] weapons industry for pepper spray, they are also used for anaesthetics [and] there is some research showing that they promote weight loss,” he told the Guardian.

Strange fruit: Tomatoes are not the first food that scientists have suggested could be given an unusual new twist using CRISPR. Sweeter strawberries, non-browning mushrooms, and tastier ground-cherries have all been either attempted or mooted in the past.

Deep Dive

Biotechnology

transplant surgery
transplant surgery

The gene-edited pig heart given to a dying patient was infected with a pig virus

The first transplant of a genetically-modified pig heart into a human may have ended prematurely because of a well-known—and avoidable—risk.

Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research
Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research

Saudi Arabia plans to spend $1 billion a year discovering treatments to slow aging

The oil kingdom fears that its population is aging at an accelerated rate and hopes to test drugs to reverse the problem. First up might be the diabetes drug metformin.

individual aging affects covid outcomes concept
individual aging affects covid outcomes concept

Anti-aging drugs are being tested as a way to treat covid

Drugs that rejuvenate our immune systems and make us biologically younger could help protect us from the disease’s worst effects.

Workers disinfect the street outside Shijiazhuang Railway Station
Workers disinfect the street outside Shijiazhuang Railway Station

Why China is still obsessed with disinfecting everything

Most public health bodies dealing with covid have long since moved on from the idea of surface transmission. China’s didn’t—and that helps it control the narrative about the disease’s origins and danger.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.