roots and tubers: (Tropaeolum sp.)
In the past few years we focus our studies on the genetic
and physiological understanding of maca, Lepidium meyenii Walp. also known as L. peruvianum Chacon sp. nov.) This species is
little known Andean root in the Cruciferae family.
This crop has multiple uses as food and medicine.
On the physiological side, these studies include range of
adaptation, growth response at different photoperiods and soil pH, field
observation at a low altitude habitat. On the cytogenetic side, it includes
chromosome number and pairing in meiosis, DNA-based marker development for
determination of genetic variability, wild species relationships and genome
One of the important components in maca
roots are glucosinolates. Benzyl glucosinolate
(tropaeolin) is the main glucosinolate
found in this species. When it is
hydrolyzed by the enzyme myrosinase, this glucosinolate will release cancer protecting isothiocynanates. The cancer protection ability of these
compounds was demonstrated years a ago in rats after
treating them with cancer inducing chemicals.
with the University of Cusco and the International Potato Center, sponsored by
the Mcknight Foundation we worked for three years
on project “Strengthening
the On-farm Conservation and Food Security of Andean Tubers in the Fragile
Ecosystem of the Southern Peruvian Highlands” .
This project involved four major tuber crops, mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum), oca (Oxalis tuberosa, olluco
and potatoes. We developed molecular markers mashua
and olluco to determine their level of genetic
variability The survey of mashua cultivars for glucosinolate content revealed that the tubers of this crop are loaded with these compounds and interestingly
enough, it has as its main glucosinolates (tropaeolin) found in maca. Mashua is not only a rich
source of carbohydrates and protein, but also of cancer-protecting compounds.
Early own, we had projects
on potatoes, pioneering mapping of marker genes in relation to the centromeres and developing markers to study gene flow in
the Andes and to study the genetic variability and folk classification system
of Andean potatoes.
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