Although the roots of Texas A&M AgriLife are firmly plants in production agriculture and natural resources, we also look to apply the power of fundamental life sciences to other real-world issues. Discoveries in biochemistry and genetics are accelerating our impact on sustainable food and fiber production. And advances in drug development and nutrition certainly make for a healthier Texas.
- Beaumont center scientists identified antioxidants that reduce the effects of reactive oxidative species by preventing damage to rice cell membranes. Experiments have shown a 5.7% increase in yield, which if applied to the entire Texas population would have a value of $9.26 million per year.
- Corpus Christi research on fungus has led to the discovery of the best resistant genes for hybrid grain sorghum grown in the region.
- Stephenville center researchers have developed new methods of screening water and soil samples to mitigate bacterial contamination of watersheds.
Current Projects & Selected Accomplishments
Structural vulnerabilities open the door for new drugs
Researchers in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics study three-dimensional structure of proteins and nucleic acids to find structural vulnerabilities that can be targeted with new drugs. They are studying potential drug compounds to treat Alzheimer’s disease, malaria, tuberculosis, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and other cancers.
The Junjie Zhang Lab has solved the structure of tuberculosis ribosome using electron microscopy.
Drugs for drug-resistant diseases and cancers
The Sacchetini Lab has screened over 50,000 drug-like compounds to test effectiveness against an enzyme that causes drug resistance. The lab has also completed several preclinical trials on a cancer drug for drug-resistant ovarian cancer.
Novel drug use
Vishal Gohil has submitted a patent application to use an existing anti-cancer drug to treat rare mitochondrial disorders. His team is also working to find nontoxic “smart drugs” that can be applied directly to the site of disease by using nanoparticles as carriers. These drugs will fight only diseased cells rather than touching healthy cells.
Canine-based cancer trials also show potential for human health
The oncology group in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences has several canine-based cancer clinical trials. They have published studies on new investigation drugs that work in lymphoma and bone cancer. This study is particularly important since this knowledge of drugs and diagnostics can also be mutually beneficial in human health.
The relationship between diet and disease
Scientists in the Department of Horticultural Science and the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center are studying how diet impacts disease. For example, stone fruits – especially plums – inhibit platelet aggregation and the increase of breast cancer cells, as studied in the laboratory. They also found that peach and plum juice protected obese rats against obesity-induced metabolic disorders.
Dietary markers and colon cancer
Nutrition and Food Science researchers are studying tumor formation, growth, detection and prevention of colon cancer. They are looking at dietary effects on genetic signatures during colon cancer progression, and are developing a noninvasive bio marker to detect colon cancer using sloughed colon cells in stool samples.