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Biochemistry

Vegetal strengthener

A researcher synthesizes phytohormone that makes the plant's mass grow and increases the number of seeds

An increase in the number of chickpea, rice and string bean seeds, were some of the changes observed in plants after the application on the part above ground of a hormone of vegetal origin synthesized in laboratory. Ornamental flowers also had their characteristics maintained for a longer period of time than is customary during the tests carried out by researchers at the Phytochemical Laboratory of the Agronomy Institute of Campinas (IAC), using the phytohormone 24-epibrassinolid, of the class of brassinosteroids.

The results were obtained during a project that received FAPESP’s support under the modality Young Researcher Support, coordinated by Mariângela de Burgos Martins de Azevedo. “Several groups abroad had carried out tests, and the results were very good for the crop produced”, Mariângela says. Her idea was to synthesize some natural brassinosteroids and, if there were time, some analogous substances, that is, substances with structures similar to these phytohormones, but not found in nature.

During the process, the group began to carry out tests to estimate the potential of their activity. In order to achieve this, they decided to encapsulate the brassinosteroids into cyclodextrins. These natural substances, produced during the degradation of starch, are formed by six, seven or eight molecules of glucose, structure of which forms a cavity capable of accommodating molecules in its interior. The success of the experiment led the researchers to register a patent for the inclusion compound of the phytohormones into the cyclodextrins for agricultural application. When they are embodied, their liberation occurs depending on the needs of the plant. According to Mariângela, this technique is used for pharmaceutical and cosmetic products.

The analogous substances also demonstrated a large potential for application. “Although the biological activity is a little inferior to the natural hormones, they are more viable in terms of cost of preparation”, Mariângela evaluates. The preparation of the analogous substances is part of another piece of research developed by Marco Antonio Teixeira Zullo, also at the Phytochemical Laboratory of IAC.

The patent has already awakened the interest of a venture capital company, but the negotiations did not progress because the company did not want to invest in the studies needed for producing the product on a large scale. Nevertheless, Mariângela is satisfied with the results because the initial proposal has led to new research prospects, now in the area of pharmaceuticals, with the development of an anti-tumor which is in the test phase.

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