MSU researcher investigates the secrets of mints

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Robin Buell, MSU plant biologist, will use a $5.1 million National Science Foundation grant to reveal mints' secrets. (view larger image)

Michigan State University (MSU) has netted a $5.1 million National Science Foundation grant, led by MSU AgBioResearch plant biologist C. Robin Buell, to explore the diverse world of mints.

Mints, or Lamiaceae, is the world’s sixth-largest family of flowering plants. If the secrets of this wide-ranging species can be unlocked, mints can be improved and potentially new synthetic molecules and products may be developed.

Mints comprise:

  • Spices – basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory and thyme
  • Medicinal herbs and teas – bee balm, bergamot, hyssop, lavender and skullcap
  • Flavor additives – spearmint and peppermint
  • Ornamentals – Salvia and ColeusWood – teak
  • Feline intoxicants – catnip

“Mints belong to one of the most-fascinating families of plants,” said Buell, a professor in the MSU Department of Plant Biology. “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.”

The in-depth study will map mints’ genome and identify key genes that drive their diversity. Mapping the genome will allow researchers to identify evolutionary and developmental mechanisms that control growth and reproduction.

It could also lead to the development of synthetic molecules for new uses, such as new medicines, foods, fragrances and oils by mixing genes from different biochemical pathways.

For the full story, please visit MSU Today.

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