BRONX, N.Y.— Plants. Humans rely on them for everything: from the air we breathe to the food we eat to the medicine they yield to heal our bodies. But do we know everything we need to know about them? In the latest issue of the journal Science (September 16, 2016), devoted to Translational Plant Science, researchers show how new technologies are redefining how plant biology will meet demands of health, medicine, energy, and agriculture.
Dr. Eleanore T. Wurtzel of Lehman College’s Biological Sciences Department and a member of the doctoral faculty at the Graduate Center, CUNY is one of those scientists whose research is at the forefront of plant science. She, along with Dr. Toni M. Kutchan of the Donald Danforth Center in St. Louis, MO, was invited to contribute a paper for this issue, titled “Plant metabolism, the diverse chemistry set of the future.” It is one of a collection of four articles highlighting a vision for plant biology and the potential impact on society.
The paper presents recent examples of selected technologies that are transforming how we study plant metabolism and how we implement these discoveries to develop the plants and microbes of tomorrow. By decoding the plant genome, scientists are laying out the chemical pathway necessary to design novel chemicals, innovative disease-fighting drugs, new sources of energy, or create plants that can better manage their ecological environments.
“The plant kingdom offers an untapped bounty of novel chemistry, enzymes, and genes that are poised for discovery using advanced technologies,” explains Dr. Wurtzel. “Investment in plant science research and education, involving interdisciplinary partnerships, will accelerate scientific advances needed to transform the fields of health and nutrition, bioenergy, and agriculture.”
Dr. Wurtzel is recognized for her long-standing research on provitamin A carotenoid biosynthesis. Her research and scientific insight have enabled sustainable solutions to global vitamin A deficiency, including vitamin A-rich maize for Africa, Golden Rice for Asia, and vitamin A-rice Cassava for Africa and South America.
In recognition of her research, Dr. Wurtzel was elected in 2006 as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and in 2012 she was elected as a fellow of the American Society of Plant Biologists.