Young siblings create new form of disease-resistant wheat
Published Thursday, May 26, 2011 11:52AM CST
Two budding scientists from Saskatoon are proving that young minds can play a big role in helping advance the field of biotechnology.
The brother and sister team continues to reap rewards and recognition for their work in developing better wheat varieties. Over the past nine months, 16-year-old Pranay Pratijit and his 14-year-old sister Prakriti have been fine-tuning a revolutionary way of creating new varieties of wheat. Their award-winning research has received high praise at regional and national competitions.
"We've been working like every Thursday and weekends. And also every break that we get we've been working full days. But it's really all paid off," says Pranay.
The Pratijits have developed a technique where genetic mutations are caused in wheat using a chemical solution. What makes the work exciting is that they've been able to create new strains of wheat without adding genes from other organisms.
"What we want to do is create different varieties so that it can potentially be disease-resistant and has high nutrition, so that it's better for human consumption," explains Prakriti.
Through the research the Pratijits have isolated a gene that influences starch content in wheat. They've been able to develop a strain of wheat with starch that the body can digest more slowly.
"That's good because it slowly releases energy, so you feel fuller longer," says Pranay. "And the sugar doesn't really spike that much. So it's also good for prevention of type two diabetes."
Their technique for creating crop mutations could have wide-scale research applications.
Carol Reynolds, of Genome Prairie, explains that with a disease-resistant strain of wheat, the two budding scientists could help out farmers worldwide. "With our growing world population and hunger on the increase globally, these young researchers have the potential to feed the world. We are very pleased as a center, as Genome Prairie, to be able to promote these young students competitions at the provincial and national levels."
In the meantime, the Pratijit's plan to expand their research and test their findings in the field. In the future Pranay wants to pursue a career as a plant pathologist, while Prakriti has her eye on microbiology.