Advances in genomics--the study of how all genes in an organism function-- its sister science proteomics (how proteins function), and other new "-omics" sciences dealing with nutrition and metabolism are leading to a new understanding of how humans and other species interact with their food, medicines or other factors in their environments, said Muscoplat. Such studies have the power to explain on the molecular level why certain substances are good or bad for everybody; perhaps more intriguing, however, is their potential for explaining why individuals react to certain foods or drugs differently. The difference could be as benign as people's varying ability to appreciate black licorice to the often unpredictable responses to anesthetics and alcohol or susceptibility to cancer.
Deriving maximum benefit from knowledge of the relationships among plant-derived foods, nutrients, medicinals and human health requires interdisciplinary research in plant and human nutrition, gene functions and related sciences, taking into account the variations between individuals. Muscoplat cites the great potential to address diet and disease but cautions that product development, regulatory processes and consumer acceptance are realities that stretch the marketplace timeline far into the future.
Other speakers in the symposium are:
Embargoed until 9 a.m. MST (11 a.m. EST) Saturday, Feb. 15. A related AAAS news briefing, "Allergen-free Shrimp? Foods That Make Medicine," will be held at that time.
Charles Muscoplat, dean, College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences, 612-624-3009
Carla Carlson, College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences, 612-625-6755
Deane Morrison, University News Service, 612-624-2346