Pepper seeds and engineering them to create the world’s spiciest peppers. If you’re a fan of all things hot and spicy, you’ve probably tried many different types of hot peppers in search of the best one. Humans have been enjoying hot peppers for hundreds of years, but it’s only recently that we’ve become curious about just what it is that makes these peppers so hot. It seems like every year a new pepper makes its way to the top ranks, being dubbed “the hottest pepper on earth.” So how exactly are these painfully hot peppers “made?”
A 2014 study involving scientists collecting DNA sample from peppers around the world looked at how capsaicins work. Most people know that peppers contain capsaicinoids – a group of compounds that give peppers their famous heat. Scientists have been studying these compounds for decades and have already isolated the gene, capsaicin synthase. Though experts already knew how to switch the gene on and off, they didn’t know how it’s regulated. The 2014 study hoped to find the answer to that query – and it did.
The capsaicin gene is found in the fruit part of the pepper, not in the seeds as popular belief suggests. The “placenta” of the pepper, or the white part to which the seeds are attached, is actually the hottest. Scientists isolated the gene from this area and found that it can be duplicated. As the gene is duplicated, it changes the structure of the compound, making more or less capsaicin. Obviously, more capsaicin means more spiciness. This means that scientists now have a whole new way to engineer pepper seeds, either through cross-breeding or copying the gene. Prepare your mouth for some of the hottest peppers the world has ever seen.