Objectives of the research program
The small seed of the plant “Sesamum indicum” has managed for years to attract the interest of the public eye and the scientists interest, thanks to the many and important beneficial effects it has on the human body. The beneficial and healing properties of this tiny seed were also known in ancient Greece, where sesame extracts were used as herbal ingredients to combat hypertension and to produce medicines.
Hippocrates described it as one of the best products for human health. Sesame is a very affordable while rich nutritional-wise source, mainly in proteins, oil, vitamins and trace elements. Sesame and its derivatives are considered products of high nutritional value, both for their high quality oil and for their high biological value protein. Sesame oil shows remarkable resistance to oxidation compared to other oils, which is mainly due to the presence of substances with antioxidant properties. What makes sesame so special is the fact that it is a food with plant protein of high biological value (18-25% ), while it is rich in vitamins (B1, B2, E, niacin), which are suitable for sensitive age groups and are necessary for better health of the nervous system.
It is also a food with plant protein of high biological value, while it is rich in vitamins necessary for better health of the nervous system. Sesame proteins are rich in sulfur amino acids which in combination with foods containing lysine, acquire greater nutritional value. The recognized nutritional and medicinal value of sesame seeds and the current consumer tendency to crave such foods have in recent years increased global demand at a faster rate than production, while demand has recently increased by about 6%, increasing production in at the same time approaches with difficulty 4%. In total, the EU in 2015 imported 161 thousand tons of sesame worth 288 million euros, with Greece in second place.
In 2016, the interest for the cultivation of sesame increased. A team of Chinese researchers in 2016, published the updated genome of sesame and presented a detailed map of its two important characteristics, the height and color of the seed. The same group sequenced 705 different varieties, identified 549 gene regions and 46 candidate genes, including genes related to oil content, fatty acid biosynthesis and yield. Thus, with the sequencing of Greek varieties, tools will be developed for the directed improvement and selection of varieties that will solve the problems of cultivation and will make it attractive to the producer. The big disadvantage of sesame cultivation is the shaking of the seed during ripening. So sesame growers are forced to harvest the whole plant to gather them in a haystack where they are left to mature and threshed at great labor cost. It also shows a significant reduction in yield due to the non-simultaneous maturation of the seeds.
The proposal will go beyond the knowledge so far. The genes of selected Greek varieties will be sequenced to understand the genome, to establish the varieties and to assist in the improvement. The transcript of the Greek varieties found in the genetic material bank and / or those that will be repatriated to understand the mechanisms of production of valuable biomolecules, the shaking of the seed and the design of functional indicators for the variety improvement. The valuable biomolecules of Greek sesame will be identified with metabolic technologies.
The purpose of the Sesame Opened proposal is the application of innovative technologies such as phenomic, genomic, transcriptional and metabolic as a tool to restore sesame cultivation in Greece, to solve basic cultivation problems and the production of new products.