A Purdue University researcher has successfully engineered plants that may not only lead to the production of anti-carcinogenic nutritional supplements, but also may be used to remove excess selenium from agricultural fields.
This photograph shows the presence of two different selenium compounds in living plant tissue. The image on the left shows a high concentration of MSC, the selenium compound shown to have anti-cancer properties, in one of the plants leaves. The image on the right highlights a different selenium compound in the same leaf. The image was obtained using a technique called X-ray absorbance spectroscopy, or XAS, to visualize concentrations of selenium. Red indicates regions of high concentration. Blue and green indicate lower concentration. (Images courtesy of Ingrid Pickering, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 97(20); p. 107110).
By introducing a gene that makes plants tolerate selenium, David Salt, professor of plant molecular physiology, has developed plants capable of building up in their tissues unusually high levels of a selenium compound. His interest in selenium stems in part from recent research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health showing that selenium can reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer by 60 percent.
"We now know how to genetically modify plants so they will make this anti-carcinogenic selenium compound," Salt said. "This research gives us the genetic means to manipulate the amount of this material thats produced in any plant."
Jennifer Curtraro | Purdue News
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