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Dragon fruit dye to replace synthetic products

by Yucatan Times
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With the aim of providing options in the use of new natural dyes, researchers from the Yucatan Scientific Research Center (CICY) study the advantages offered by the Pitaya (Stenocereus queretaroensis), also known in English as “Dragon Fruit”.

“For the study they are based on the wide range of nutritional and physical-chemical properties of that fruit, such as its great water solubility, resistance to color loss by heat, as well as its bioactive properties as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory,” reports CICY.

María de Lourdes Miranda Ham, a researcher at the Plant Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Unit of CICY, explained that in this basic science project, backed by Conacyt, the biosynthesis of betalains (nitrogen pigments) produced by the Dragon fruit (Stenocereus queretaroensis).

“This variety is different from the Yucatecan pitahaya, although both belong to the same family of cacti”, said the doctor.

“The process of obtaining dyes from vegetables or fruits is common since pre-Hispanic times. These natural substances were used to color different products, such as textiles and also food; for example, the cochinita pibil in which the achiote is used as a dye, ”he said.

Jorge Luis Araujo Sánchez, a graduate student in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at CICY, explained that betalains are specialized metabolites, synthesized by certain species belonging to the order of “Caryophyllales“, such as beet, cactus, amaranth and pitaya.

He also stressed the importance of this project, since natural dyes today have an essential value in the food and pharmaceutical industry over synthetic dyes.

“Decades ago the spectrum of artificial colors was very wide, almost any color could be available,” he said.

However, “currently negative implications have been discovered in human health for its indiscriminate use, related to the development of allergies or cancer, so the use of natural sources of color is encouraged.”

At CICY, scientists study the advantages of using dyes that are produced with pitaya and how they would replace artificial ones.

Jorge Luis Araujo Sánchez, a graduate student in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at CICY, explained that pitaya betalains are soluble in water, so they can be used in food products such as bread or sweets, and it can also be used in pharmaceutical products.

“Currently, the research is in its initial stage, using the modern tools of proteomics, genomics and transcriptomics to study each of the phses of its biosynthesis process”, explained Dr. María de Lourdes Miranda Ham, leader of this investigation.

The Yucatan Times

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