ROCHESTER (WWJ) – Does corn hold the key to curing cancer?

Oakland University Dr. Gerard Madlambayan with the Department of Biological Sciences says plants can be a model system for human disease like cancer, and he’s working with a geneticist to analyze how corn show them how to fight it.

It’s hard to think human cells can be similar to the cells in corn, but they are. While studying the genetic properties of corn, researchers identified a regulatory gene — which is involved in controlling the expression of one or more other genes.

“So, when we disrupted the activity of this gene using a technique called CRISPR/Cas9, we found that this gene actually affected the expression of many other genes that are known to be involved with human cancer,” said Madlambayan.

Dr. Madlambayan said they’re trying to figure out if suppressing the gene would have an effect on human cancer cells as well.

“For this gene to have such a drastic effect on the proliferation or the growth of these corn cells made us think that maybe there was a similar gene or a similar mechanism that was present in humans that hasn’t been identified yet,” he said.

The hope is to eventually learn how to disrupt cancer pathways in human genes, which one day could help those diagnosed with cancers like leukemia. Madlambayan said he’s excited about the research and hopes others will start to use plants as a model system to better understand human disease.


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