Prospecting for Health Protectants in
The soybean, long known in the Orient as a "yellow jewel," has
been processed in the United States for vegetable oil and protein since the
mid-1920s. Now it's clear this plant gem may hold even more valuable health
Agricultural Research Service
scientists and their University of Illinois colleagues are prospecting for
components that might help cancer-free animals and humans stay that way.
"While some natural and synthetic chemicals disrupt DNA and sometimes
result in malignancies, other compounds in our food supply help protect against
irreversible DNA damage," says Mark A. Berhow. He is an ARS chemist at the
National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Illinois.
The idea is to provide DNA-friendly dietary compoundstermed
chemoprotectantsto counter unfriendly ones in food or the environment.
In search of the extra treasure, the scientists are examining some
leftovers from soybean oil and protein extraction. The leftovers make up a
gooey molasses called phytochemical concentrate (PCC). Until now, PCC has been
processed into a light-brown powder for livestock feed. But compounds isolated
from the leftovers may become more valuable than the main processed soy
Someday, soybeans may be bred or genetically transformed to contain greater
amounts of chemoprotectants. The current search for these substances, supported
in part by the United Soybean Board, may serve as a model for research on other
Geneticist Michael Plewa of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
and his colleagues expose cell cultures of Chinese hamster lungs and ovaries to
PCC components prepared by Berhow and ARS plant physiologist Steven F. Vaughn.
Plewa's team then challenges these cells with a chemical known to induce
tumors. PCC and some of its components prevent DNA damage.
The university researchers assess DNA breakage in the cells. Once the
scientists associate a particular PCC portion with minimal cell breakage, they
further purify it for experiments designed to precisely identify the protective
In preliminary studies, mice fed certain PCC components for 2 weeks were
protected from cell damage.By Ben
Hardin, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.
Mark A. Berhow and
Steven F. Vaughn are in the
USDA-ARS Bioactive Agents
Research Unit, National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, 1815
N. University St., Peoria, IL 61604; phone (309) 681-6595, fax (309) 681-6693.
"Prospecting for Health Protectants in Soy " was published
in the May 1999 issue of
Agricultural Research magazine.