GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A new study by researchers at Michigan State University may unveil the first step in creating all-natural medicines and replacing harmful chemicals, all from a common herb.
Mint plants, which include the likes of rosemary, basil and sage, have been found to have genome clusters in their chemistry. The discovery was made by Bjoern Hamberger and his students, Abigail Bryson and Emily Lanier. Hamberger said the students first found these clusters in several members of the mint family, something that is quite uncommon.
“You find these in bacteria and fungi,” Hamberger said. “But in plants? it’s a rather uncommon phenomenon.”
These findings were done in partnership with a former MSU genomics professor, Robin Buell, who is now with the University of Georgia. The clusters have led researchers to believe that the mint plants have evolved to thrive and adapt to their environments over the past 60 million to 70 million years. The discovery was made with the help of new technologies that were previously unavailable to researchers.
Hamberger said that he hopes the find will lead to new, greener means of production for everyday use. He has been working with these plants on medicinal breakthroughs for the past 10 years.
“We’re interested in more sustainable, or more green solutions,” he said. “We believe that if we can learn from the plants and how they make these compounds, this gives us the tools that we can use to engineer biotech hosts for production.”
His previous research found that Indian Coleus is an effective treatment for glaucoma and that Texas sage can be used as a natural antimicrobial to treat tuberculosis. Hamberger hopes that another mint species will go toward helping fight off one pest that he knows all too well.
“I am a mosquito magnet. And we know how harmful these aerosol repellents are to environment and health,” Hamberger said. “If we have access to a natural mosquito repellent, this is a compound that doesn’t stick in the air and doesn’t smell bad and may even be more effective.”
The full study can be found here.