Purdue researcher to explore compounds in mint plants

September 4, 2015  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University biochemistry professor has received a $1.4 million National Science Foundation grant to conduct mint research.

Natalia Dudareva, distinguished professor of biochemistry, is part of a research team led by Michigan State University that received a $5.1 million NSF grant.

Mints, or Lamiaceae, are the world's sixth-largest family of flowering plants.

Dudareva's research will focus on identifying chemical compounds and their formation in 14 species of mint family. That will allow researchers to produce the compounds and increase their levels in plants. The research could lead to exploring new uses for plants of the mint family, such as for medicinal purposes.

"This research is not only important for the mint industry, but also for agriculture and medicine as plant species in this family produce a wide range of metabolites used as food additives, medicinal compounds and other industrial purposes," Dudareva said.

 Robin Buell, MSU plant biologist and leader of the grant, said mint belongs to one of the most fascinating families of plants.

"We use them in cooking, for fragrance, for furniture, as ornamentals, for feline intoxicants and as herbal remedies - all because they produce diverse chemicals of interest to humans," Buell said.  

Little is known about mints, however, in comparison to their worldwide economic value. In the U.S. alone, peppermint and spearmint oil sell for $20 to $24 per pound and had a total estimated market value of $200 million in 2012. 

Writer: Aspen Deno, 765-496-2384, denoa@purdue.edu 

Source: Natalia Dudareva, 765-494-1324, dudareva@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Keith Robinson, robins89@purdue.edu
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