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Achintya Bezbaruah, Dinesh Katti, and Kalapana Katti Awarded NIFA/USDA Food Safety Grant

Achintya Bezbaruah (PI), Dinesh Katti, and Kalpana Katti from Civil and Environmental Engineering have been awarded a 3-year $500K research grant by National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) of the United States Department of Agriculture. The project entitled ‘Life-cycle Approaches to Understand the Interactions between Crops and Engineered Nanoparticles at Molecular Level’ also has NDSU’s Marinus Otte and Donna Jacob from Biological Sciences and Jose Gonzalez from South Dakota State University as collaborators. The team will conduct collaborative research to understand the molecular level interactions of two specific engineered nanoparticles (ENPs, zinc oxide and carbon nanotubes) with crop plants through in-vivo, in-vitro, genetic, genomic, and molecular modeling experiments, and relate the information to food security. The current and projected growth in applications of ENPs in areas such as cosmetics, electronics, drugs and other biomedical applications and the subsequent release of ENPs into the environment, primarily into water and soil, and their potential impact on plants was the motivation for the proposed research. This project will greatly improve the understanding of the mechanisms underlying plant uptake of ENPs and their fate and transport within the plants. The main focus of this research will be on spinach (Spinacea oleracea). In addition, uptake and translocation of nanoparticles in rice (Oryza sativa) will also be studied. An important goal of the project is to assess if ENPs affect DNA in the plants mentioned above, because of molecular interactions between nanoparticles and plant tissues. Understanding the mechanisms of uptake, and fate and transport will help in assess the threats to food security from ENPs and in developing methods to prevent negative impacts of such nanoparticles.

NDSU’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department has a strong research emphasis on environmental nanotechnology and has been successful in pursuing federal grants in recent years. The research team’s strength in plant and microorganism interactions with engineered nanoparticles, nanomaterials, biomolecular modeling, material characterization, and genomics helped them to be among the 5-7 research projects supported this year from among the 101 research proposals submitted to NIFA’s priority area of physical and molecular mechanisms of food contamination.