Genome of Superfood Ito-mozuku Finally Cracked


Scientists at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University have uncovered the genetic structure of popular seaweed ito-mozuku or Nemacystus decipiens. This brown Japanese seaweed is classed as a superfood because of its high fucoidan content. This new discovery could provide valuable insights for farmers along the Japanese coast.

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Seaweed Farming Considerations

Seaweed farming is a viable business along the tropical coastline of Japan. Tons of edible seaweed are grown and harvested there each year. It is feared, however, that with increasing levels of pollution and the rising ocean water temperatures, the farmed seaweed yields may be affected. Farmers may soon need to change their farming methods to maintain their livelihoods.

It is hoped that the unveiling of the genome of mozuku is going to be helpful in informing new farming techniques in the future. One of these is cross-breeding. The team from OIST has published their findings in Scientific Reports, and this is a few years after they released a draft of the genome of Okinawa mozuku, another edible seaweed species.

Both seaweeds are in high demand because of their numerous health benefits. They are high in fucoidan compared with other species of brown seaweed. This is a complex polysaccharide compound that has been linked to a number of positive health effects. Some laboratory tests have found fucoidan to slow down and prevent the formation of blood clots and tumors. Fucoidan also has neuroprotective, antiviral, and immune-modulating effects.

Both research studies on the mozuku seaweeds have shown which genes are behind the high concentration of fucoidan. The researchers are looking into the exact reason for this further. This knowledge could have several applications, and they are planning new experimental work to test their findings so far. If they can fully understand the genetics behind fucoidan production, this could be a game-changer and significant addition to the body of knowledge which has been more focused on land plants.

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