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NDSU Faculty Collaborate with Alumnus on Food Safety Research

Fargo, N.D. — Five researchers from NDSU’s Departments of Civil Engineering and Biological Sciences have been awarded a three-year, $500,000 research grant by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The project, titled “Life-cycle Approaches to Understand the Interactions Between Crops and Engineered Nanoparticles at Molecular Level,” also has an NDSU alumnus as a collaborator.

Achintya Bezbaruah (principal investigator), Dinesh Katti and Kalpana Katti from NDSU civil engineering; Marinus Otte and Donna Jacob from biological sciences; and NDSU alumnus Jose Gonzalez from South Dakota State University 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 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 and their potential impact on plants were the motivation for the proposed research. The project will improve understanding of the mechanisms underlying plant uptake of ENPs and their fate and transport within the plants.

The main focus of the research will be on spinach. Uptake and translocation of nanoparticles in rice also will be studied. An important goal of the project is to assess if ENPs affect DNA in the plants because of molecular interactions between nanoparticles and plant tissues. The research will help in assessing the threats to food security from ENPs and in developing methods to prevent negative impacts of such nanoparticles.

NDSU’s civil 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 five to seven 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.

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