April 6-7, 2017 | Lincoln, Nebraska
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2017 NRIC speakers
portrait of Cathie Martin


Dr. Cathie Martin
University of East Anglia (England)
What can plant metabolic engineering do for human health?
4:05 - 4:45 pm, Friday 7 April 2017

Phenylpropanoid metabolism is the best understood pathway of specialised metabolism in plants, probably because the core pathways are widely distributed; for example, monolignol biosynthesis in ferns, gymnosperms and angiosperms, flavonoid metabolism in bryophytes, ferns, gymnosperms and angiosperms. Some specialised polyphenols have therapeutic properties and preparations of plants that produce them have been used widely as traditional medicines. Foods, particularly fruit and vegetables, are important sources of polyphenol phytonutrients that promote health. Because these compounds are not essential for life, they have been disregarded by many nutritional and biofortification programmes. However, the recognition of their importance in the diet is essential to meeting the objectives of food and nutritional security as defined by the FAO. By engineering phenylpropanoid metabolism we have been able to enrich tomato fruit with different phenylpropanoid compounds allowing us to compare the relative effects of different polyphenols on cardiovascular disease.


Cathie Martin is a group leader at the John Innes Centre and Professor at the University of East Anglia. Her interests span from fundamental to applied plant science. She researches into the relationship between diet and health and how crops can be fortified to improve diets and address the global challenge of escalating chronic disease. This work has involved linking leading clinical and epidemiological researchers with plant breeders and metabolic engineers to develop scientific understanding of how diet can help to maintain health, promote healthy aging and reduce the risk of chronic disease. Cathie is also involved in genetic screens to identify crops which lack toxins that cause nutritional diseases, and has recently initiated a collaborative project with China to research on Chinese Medicinal Plants.