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No Need to Add Jalapeños to the Salsa?

Gene editing could enable tomatoes to produce capsaicinoids that are typically found in chili peppers, the Guardian reports. This, researchers from Brazil and Ireland say, could allow capsaicinoids to be obtained more easily. Capsaicinoids, the Guardian notes, are used in pepper spray, anesthetics, and more.

Researchers led by Agustin Zsögön from the Federal University of Viçosa write in Trends in Plant Science this week that Capsicum species are labor-intensive, tricky-to-grow crops that produce varying levels of spiciness. But, other crops in the Solanaceae family like tomatoes, Solanum lycopersicum, which split from chili peppers about 19 million years ago, are easier to grow. If tomatoes could be coaxed to produce capsaicinoids using CRISPR tools, capsaicinoids could be more easily collected, they argue.

"Engineering the capsaicinoid genetic pathway to the tomato would make it easier and cheaper to produce this compound, which has very interesting applications," Zsögön says in a statement. "We have the tools powerful enough to engineer the genome of any species; the challenge is to know which gene to engineer and where."

He adds that his team is now testing that out.