Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Communities
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Iron in New Maize Strain gets Absorbed More Readily

Published: Friday, February 15, 2013
Last Updated: Friday, February 15, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Researchers have developed a strain of maize with a high iron bioavailability, meaning more of the iron that is present naturally in these maize lines can be absorbed.

The researchers, all from the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service's Robert Holley Center on the Cornell campus, tested more than 100 maize strains for differences in iron bioavailability. They did this by introducing simulated digestions of the individual maize strains to cultured human intestinal cells and measuring the iron bioavailability. Using a technique known as quantitative trait loci (QTL) mapping, they correlated this measure with areas of the maize genome, which helped guide the maize breeding.

Iron deficiency is the most prevalent nutritional deficiency and cause of anemia in the world. Although boosting the nutritional quality of iron in staple food crops can help, increasing iron concentrations in the crop does not guarantee increased iron absorption.

"We had two options: to increase the concentration or to increase the bioavailability. Our maize breeder, Dr. Owen Hoekenga [a Cornell molecular biologist], chose to select for iron bioavailability as these regions appeared more easy to isolate," said food scientist Elad Tako, lead author of the study, which was published in the January issue of Nutrition Journal (12:20).

The results were validated by feeding the new maize, which harbored three QTLs predicted to promote iron bioavailability, to chickens. A diet of maize with high iron bioavailability maintained the iron status of chickens, but chickens fed the low bioavailable iron maize became anemic.

"While the up-front cost of improving the iron quality of staple foods is high, the cost of maintaining them is likely less and thus very sustainable," said food scientist Raymond Glahn, the senior author of the study.

As part of the study, the researchers developed techniques to test the results of the cell culture assay in a live animal -- in this case, the broiler chicken. Such a model is "cost-effective, easy to handle, sensitive to dietary mineral deficiencies, including iron, and could consume the broad range of staple crops that we plan to test," said Tako.

In the future, the researchers hope to identify QTLs that govern the availability of other vital nutrients in crops. "We have done a lot with beans, lentils, sorghum, wheat -- looking into factors that can affect the bioavailability of iron, but we are also interested in zinc bioavailability," said Tako.

"Biofortification of grains with iron and zinc not only gives better nutrition for the consumers but it's also an incentive for the farmers because they promote crop yield. Without that feature, the farmers wouldn't adopt it," said Glahn.

The World Health Organization reports that almost a quarter of the world's population is anemic, with prevalence rates at almost 70 percent in African countries, where maize is an integral part of the diet. "The ultimate game is to take this to an area where the population is iron-deficient," said Glahn, in hopes of curbing anemia.

However, "large-scale feeding studies in humans can be costly ... So before we can plan such a study, we must confirm that our enhanced maize can provide more bioavailable iron to humans. This will involve human volunteers … and would likely be performed here on the Cornell campus," said Glahn.

Plant biologist Leon Kochian was also a co-author of the study, which was funded by the USDA. All the co-authors also have courtesy academic appointments at Cornell.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Tumor-suppressing Gene Lends Insight to Cancer Treatment
Researchers have found that delicate replication process derails if a gene named PTEN has mutated or is absent.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Synthetic Immune Organ Produces Antibodies
Cornell engineers have created a functional, synthetic immune organ that produces antibodies and can be controlled in the lab, completely separate from a living organism.
Friday, June 12, 2015
On Planes, Savory Tomato Becomes Favored Flavor
Study shows the effect that airplane noise has on passengers' taste preferences.
Friday, May 15, 2015
$5.5M NSF Grant Aims to Improve Rice Crops with Genome Editing
Researchers to precisely target, cut, remove and replace DNA in a living cell to improve rice.
Friday, May 08, 2015
'Shield' Gives Tricky Proteins a New Identity
Solubilization of Integral Membrane Proteins with high Levels of Expression.
Saturday, April 11, 2015
DNA Safeguard May Be Key In Cancer Treatment
Cornell researchers have developed a new technique to understand the actions of key proteins required for cancer cells to proliferate.
Monday, March 09, 2015
A ‘STAR’ is Born: Engineers Devise Genetic 'On' Switch
A new “on” switch to control gene expression has been developed by Cornell scientists.
Tuesday, February 03, 2015
Bacteria Be Gone!
New technology keeps bacteria from sticking to surfaces.
Monday, January 19, 2015
On the Environmental Trail of Food Pathogens
Learning where Listeria dwells can aid the search for other food pathogens.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Chemists Show That ALS is a Protein Aggregation Disease
Using a technique that illuminates subtle changes in individual proteins, chemistry researchers at Cornell have uncovered new insight into the underlying causes of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Genetics Used to Improve Plants for Bioenergy
An upcoming genetics investigation into the symbiotic association between soil fungi and feedstock plants for bioenergy production could lead to more efficient uptake of nutrients, which would help limit the need for expensive and polluting fertilizers.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Computer Model Reveals Cancer's Energy Source
Findings focused on the energy-making process in cancer cells known as the Warburg Effect.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
A New Player in Lipid Metabolism Discovered
Specially engineered mice gained no weight, and normal counterparts became obese on the same high-fat, obesity-inducing Western diet.
Monday, August 18, 2014
Ingested Nanoparticles May Damage Liver
Although nanoparticles in food, sunscreen and other everyday products have many benefits, researchers from Cornell are finding that at certain doses, the particles might cause human organ damage.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Foodborne Pathogen Detection Speeds Up Dramatically
Next-generation sequencing techniques allow rapidly identification of strains of salmonella, quickening responses to potential outbreaks.
Monday, July 21, 2014
Scientific News
High Throughput Mass Spectrometry-Based Screening Assay Trends
Dr John Comley provides an insight into HT MS-based screening with a focus on future user requirements and preferences.
How a Genetic Locus Protects Adult Blood-Forming Stem Cells
Mammalian imprinted Gtl2 protects adult hematopoietic stem cells by restricting metabolic activity in the cells' mitochondria.
Genetic Basis of Fatal Flu Side Effect Discovered
A group of people with fatal H1N1 flu died after their viral infections triggered a deadly hyperinflammatory disorder in susceptible individuals with gene mutations linked to the overactive immune response, according to a recent study.
New Tech Vastly Improves CRISPR/Cas9 Accuracy
A new CRISPR/Cas9 technology developed by scientists at UMass Medical School is precise enough to surgically edit DNA at nearly any genomic location, while avoiding potentially harmful off-target changes typically seen in standard CRISPR gene editing techniques.
The MaxSignal Colistin ELISA Test Kit from Bioo Scientific
Kit can help prevent the antibiotic apocalypse by keeping last resort drugs out of the food supply.
"Good" Mozzie Virus Might Hold Key to Fighting Human Disease
Australian scientists have discovered a new virus carried by one of the country’s most common pest mosquitoes.
Non-Disease Proteins Kill Brain Cells
Scientists at the forefront of cutting-edge research into neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s have shown that the mere presence of protein aggregates may be as important as their form and identity in inducing cell death in brain tissue.
Closing the Loop on an HIV Escape Mechanism
Research team finds that protein motions regulate virus infectivity.
New Class of RNA Tumor Suppressors Identified
Two short, “housekeeping” RNA molecules block cancer growth by binding to an important cancer-associated protein called KRAS. More than a quarter of all human cancers are missing these RNAs.
Potential Treatment for Life-Threatening Viral Infections Revealed
The findings point to new therapies for Dengue, West Nile and Ebola.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos