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Collaborative Success Stories: Getting the Lead Out


University of Missouri plant scientists are working with crops to reduce harmful metals like lead and increase beneficial nutrients such as iron.

While plants accumulate beneficial elements such as iron and zinc, which help boost energy and strengthen the immune system, they can also take up arsenic, cadmium and mercury—those that can contribute to diabetes, hypertension and some types of cancer. University of Missouri researchers David Mendoza-Cozatl and Heather Hunt are studying the seeds and leaves of certain plants to try and minimize the amount of harmful elements they store while also fortifying plants with more beneficial nutrients.

Mendoza-Cozatl received a $1 million award from the National Science Foundation to support this research. The current focus is testing how different variables, such as the soil composition and specific plant traits, affect the mineral makeup of leaves and seeds. The researchers hope to develop plants with enhanced nutritional qualities to solve health problems such as iron and zinc deficiencies.

Dr. David Mendoza-Cozatl is a member of the Division of Plant Sciences, the Interdisciplinary Plant Group and the Bond Life Sciences Center and is part of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Dr. Heather Hunt is a part of the Department of Bioengineering, which is co-housed by the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and the College of Engineering.

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Related Initiative(s):
Food for the Future