Wu Receives Grant to Study Fungus that Causes Liver Cancer

June 8, 2020

Felicia Wu, John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition and Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics and IIT-affiliated faculty member, along with David Hennessy, Elton R. Smith Chair in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, were recently awarded a $478,000 USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture, or NIFA, grant of for their project "Aflatoxin Reduced By Bt Corn? Examining Crop Insurance Claims for Real World Impacts of Technologies for Food Safety."

This grant will allow the team to examine whether transgenic, or genetically modified, Bt corn has lower levels of a certain fungal toxin, aflatoxin, that causes liver cancer. Aflatoxin is produced by fungi that infect corn when there is insect damage – you may have noticed that vegetables and fruits that were eaten by insects often have a ring of mold around the insect bites.

Bt corn is genetically modified to produce pesticides that target insects, but it is harmless to humans and other animals, and has less insect damage, and therefore less fungal infection. Does this mean that Bt corn can reduce the presence of aflatoxin? If so, then it could have huge economic and health benefits. Aflatoxin causes liver cancer, and therefore the FDA controls it strictly, sometimes at a substantial cost to corn growers, Wu said.

Read more about this story on MSUToday: https://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2020/researchers-earn-grant-to-study-fungus-that-causes-liver-cancer/.