An Indian American scientist has received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the US to study plant stem cells.
G Venugopala Reddy, an assistant professor of plant cell biology at the University of California in Riverside, will investigate, over four years, how plant stem cells maintain their identity and how they eventually get specialised into different cell types.
"We will also do a pioneering comparative study of plants versus animals at the genome level," Reddy told IANS. The study will be relevant to human health.
The 37-year-old scientist from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai received the grant, amid stiff competition, from the NSF which is an independent agency that funds basic research in science and engineering for promoting human well-being.
Reddy plans to use two powerful methods in his research. One will help him identify genes active in stem cells and the other is live imaging, which will allow him to monitor in real time how individual proteins interact in living plant cells.
Like animals, plants also have stem cells. Plant stem cells, which can transform themselves into many other types, give rise to all the cells in the plant. These master cells are found on the tip of the plant's stem.
Reddy, who joined the University of California's Department of Botany and Plant Sciences last year, will be assisted by a team comprising his postdoctoral researchers, graduate and undergraduate students.