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IISER Bhopal Scientists Carry Out 1st Ever Genome Sequencing Of Medicinal Plant Amla

The study found Amla, a plant native to South Asia and staple of traditional Indian medicine, to be a perfect choice for switching from the synthetic to a natural source of Vitamin C.

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(Left to Right) Manohar Singh Bisht, Abhisek Chakraborty, Dr. Vineet K Sharma, Shruti Mahajan
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Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Bhopal (IISER-Bhopal) have carried out the genome sequencing of the medicinal plant of amla for the first time. 

The genome sequencing refers to the mapping out of the order of the genetic structure of any organism. The process is key to understanding the basic structure of any organism and its evolution over time. 

The amla plant is indigenous to South Asia and has been used in the Indian and Chinese traditional medicine for centuries. It is high in Vitamin-C and a rich source of various phytochemicals, minerals, and amino acids. While these pharmaceutical and nutritional importance of Amla have been known for a long time, its genetic composition had hitherto not been studied in detail, noted a press release by IISER-Bhopal.

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The release quoted lead researcher Dr Vineet Sharma of IISER-Bhopal as saying: "We analysed the genome and transcriptome of the amla plant using leaves from our campus. We employed advanced sequencing technologies, including 10x Genomics and Oxford Nanopore Technology (ONT) long-read sequencing, along with transcriptomic sequencing."

Apart from obtaining the draft genome structure of the Amla for the first time, the researchers also identified genes responsible for vitamin C biosynthesis and compared them with genes in other plants that bear vitamin C-rich fruits, said the press release.

The research, published in the journal 'Frontiers journal, found that Amla's abundant Vitamin-C content and the remarkable capacity of each tree to yield up to 100 kg of fruits make it superior to other Vitamin C-rich fruits such as the West Indian cherry from Mexico and the camu camu fruit found in Brazil, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela and makes it a perfect choice for switching from the synthetic to a natural source of Vitamin C.

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The study further noted that the adaptive evolution of Amla could be one of the key reasons for its easy adaptation to various climatic zones and environmental conditions. 

Highlighting the significance of their study, Dr Sharma of IISER-Bhopal said, “The analysis of the whole genomic landscape of the Amla also helped us in understanding its evolutionary descent in comparison with 26 other plant species. It will also help in developing improved nutraceuticals, food, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical products, and for further horticultural and genomic studies.” 

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