AGRICULTURE, VETERINARY MEDICINE AND
NATURAL RESOURCES NEWS FROM IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY
GMO TASK FORCE TO BEGIN WORK AT ISU
In light of public concerns on genetically modified agricultural products, ISU has formed a task force to study the issues. Genetically modified organisms, commonly referred to as GMOs, are crops, animals or other living things that have been produced using the scientific tools of biotechnology. The European Union recently announced it would restrict the import of GMO grains, and grocery shelves there were cleared of food items because of concerns they might have been produced from genetically modified soybeans. ISU's GMO task force, made up of faculty and staff members from a broad range of sciences, will examine issues surrounding GMOs; help define what role ISU should play; and supply science-based information to policy-makers and the public. The task force is co-chaired by Colin Scanes, executive associate dean of the College of Agriculture, and Stan Johnson, vice provost of ISU Extension. Contact Scanes, (515) 294-1823; Johnson, (515) 294-6192; or Susan Thompson, Agriculture Information, (515) 294-0705.
EXPLORING SOY ISOFLAVONES IMPACT ON HUMAN HEALTH
ISU researchers are studying phytochemicals in soybeans that may be helpful in preventing cancer, lowering cholesterol and decreasing bone loss in women. "Phytochemicals is a term to describe potentially healthy components that aren't the classical nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals," said Suzanne Hendrich, associate dean of ISU's College of Family and Consumer Sciences. One family of components, isoflavones, is found mainly in soybeans. "There's no evidence that isoflavones are effective in treating cancer, but there is evidence that isoflavones can prevent it from happening," Hendrich said. Researchers also have found that eating soyfoods lowers cholesterol and may help decrease bone loss for women during menopause. There have been positive results from an ISU study measuring bone density in menopausal women who added isoflavones to their diets. Contact Hendrich, (515) 294-0859; D. Lee Alekel, Food Science and Human Nutrition, (515) 294-3552; or Barbara McManus, Agriculture Information, (515) 294-0707.
GROUP FORGES LINK BETWEEN SOYBEAN AND HEALTH STUDIES
"Considering the importance of plants to our health, it's about time we connected agricultural and health sciences," says Diane Birt. Birt, chair of ISU's food science and human nutrition department, has led efforts to organize the Consortium on Human Health and Soybeans. The group will conduct research on the use of soyfoods to improve vascular health, prevent cancer and decrease bone loss in women. The consortium currently includes 47 scientists from several universities, plus representatives from federal agricultural and health agencies. In August, consortium members will discuss their research plans at the sixth World Soybean Research Conference in Chicago. Contact Birt, (515) 294-3011, or Barbara McManus, Agriculture Information, (515) 294-0707.
CHECK THE WEB FOR POTENTIAL SOYFOOD BENEFITS
Consumers can go online to look up potential health benefits from eating tofu, drinking soymilk or consuming other soyfoods. The USDA-Iowa State University Isoflavones Database is up and running on the World Wide Web. Isoflavones are compounds in soybeans that have antioxidant capability, and may perform other functions that enhance health. Scientists suspect isoflavones may help lower the risk of breast and prostate cancer. "The database contains useful information for researchers, dietitians, clinicians, health professionals and consumers," said Pat Murphy, professor of food science and human nutrition. "Consumers can look up particular foods and find out the content of isoflavones." The database comes at a time when U.S. sales of soyfoods are on the rise. The database also is timely because the Food and Drug Administration may decide later this year on a health claim regarding soyfoods. "If the FDA supports the claim, we'll see food companies rapidly rolling out a whole new generation of soy products," Murphy said. Contact Murphy, (515) 294-1970, or Brian Meyer, (515) 294-0706.
HOPE FOR ALZHEIMER'S PATIENTS ON THE HORIZON
ISU researchers may have found hope for victims of Alzheimer's disease. Like diabetics, Alzheimer's patients have difficulty absorbing glucose, a sugar abundant in the bloodstream. They experience a glucose shortage in the brain, and the resulting imbalance of chemicals can lead to memory loss and disorientation. The researchers suspect that the presence of a protein may hinder the function of a pathway that transports glucose to the brain. Insulin may help keep this system functioning well. "Insulin may work in the brain much as it works elsewhere in the body, by enhancing glucose uptake," said Etsuro Uemura, a professor of biomedical sciences in the ISU's College of Veterinary Medicine. With a better understanding of how the protein and insulin affect glucose levels in the brain, there is the possibility of developing drugs to improve brain function in Alzheimer's patients. Contact Uemura, (515) 294-7328; Janice Buss, Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology, (515) 294-6125; or Danelle Baker-Miller, Office of Biotechnology, (515) 294-7356.
NEW TECHNOLOGIES TO BE DEMONSTRATED AT MEAT SEMINARS
This month, meat-industry professionals will get a first look at a couple of new technologies at ISU's annual sausage and processed meat short courses. One technology to be demonstrated will be equipment that more precisely controls the texture of emulsified meat products, like wieners and bologna. Another will be new high-speed automated equipment to produce linked sausages, bratwurst or other meats in natural casings. "Both technologies are in response to meat-industry needs to more efficiently control the consistency and quality of their products," said Joe Cordray, ISU Extension meat specialist who teaches the seminars. The July 22 short course will be attended by about 100 people from 22 states and six countries. A seminar on July 29 will be attended by 65 meat specialists from South America. Contact Cordray, (515) 294-4266, or Brian Meyer, Agriculture Information, (515) 294-0706.
Bt CORN DOES DOUBLE DUTY ON THREATS TO CORN CROP
Researchers at Iowa State and the USDA have found that Bt corn can reduce two threats to corn plants: corn borers and toxic fungi. When corn borer larvae bore into corn plants, infections from Fusarium fungi result. The fungi can release fumonisin, a chemical toxic to both animals and humans. When corn borers attack the plants, the researchers found fumonisin levels increase in standard corn hybrids but not in the Bt hybrids. Because Bt kills off the borers before they can do much damage, the pests don't transmit as much fungi to corn stalks and ears. Contact Gary Munkvold, Plant Pathology, (515) 294-6708; Richard Hellmich, USDA-ARS/Entomology, (515) 294-4509; or Danelle Baker-Miller, Office of Biotechnology, (515) 294-7356.
HISTORY OF ANIMAL BREEDING AND GENETICS INSPIRES NEW MURAL
Richard Willham, a retired distinguished professor of animal science at ISU, has painted a mural illustrating the history of animal breeding and genetics. The mural, titled "The Coffee Time Mural," is located in a lounge area on the second floor of Kildee Hall, the animal science building on the ISU campus. Willham, who conducted research and taught molecular and quantitative genetics for 31 years, said he hopes the mural inspires students to discuss the ideas illustrated in the painting. Willham incorporated into the mural several scientific formulas used in animal breeding and genetics. Contact Willham, (515) 294-3533, or Barbara McManus, Agriculture Information, (515) 294-0707.
NEW GRANTS ENCOURAGE SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE
New grants from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture will support nearly $1 million worth of research, demonstration and education projects in Iowa. Funding for 19 new and 29 continuing projects began July 1. Topics cover many issues related to agriculture and communities; agroforestry; crop and forage systems; and livestock, nutrient and pest management. The center is currently seeking ideas for projects to be considered in next year's competitive grants program. For more information, see http://www.leopold.iastate.edu, or call Jeri Neal or Anne Larson, (515) 294-3711.
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