Researchers from the Yucatan Scientific Research Center (CICY) are studying the advantages offered by the Pitaya (Stenocereus queretaroensis), also known in English as “Dragon Fruit”. Their aim is to provide options in the use of new natural dyes.
“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.”
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.