September is National Hunger Action Month, a month dedicated to fighting food insecurity. For some, that fight is year-round. One in seven people in Missouri struggles with hunger, according to Feeding America’s 2016 Map the Meal Gap study.
With the help of a new PET/CT scanner, MU researchers are approaching food insecurity from a new angle. In addition to helping doctors diagnose cancer and other diseases, the scanner could help plant scientists create pest-resistant types of corn in efforts to solve global food shortages.
Jeffrey Bryan is director of the comparative oncology radiobiology and epigenetics laboratory in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. He said the scanner helps researchers track the progress of diseases inside plants as they search for methods to prevent them.
“You could genetically manipulate the plant to more efficiently use particular minerals and then prove that that efficiency has been enhanced by scanning uptake of the radioactive form of those minerals that are of interest to you,” Bryan said.
Bryan said Research Professor Richard Ferrieri has ongoing studies with using this technology with plants. But optimizing crop health requires large-scale studies, which require large-scale equipment.
“We have research plans to be able to look at multiple plants simultaneously, because the size of the gantry that we can scan with this is bigger than most that are designed for plants,” Bryan said.
With the help of this technology, researchers at the MU College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources hope to find solutions to global hunger.