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Trent Discovery: Researchers Find Plant Hormones in Mammals

July 5, 2018

Trent faculty and students investigate role these hormones could play in fighting cancer

Researcher in white lab coat at a lab, crossing his arms and standing next to lab equipment
Trent University PhD. student Mark Seegobin in the Water Quality Centre, where he conducts research on a group of hormones called Cytokinins.

Researchers at Trent University recently discovered that mammals produce several types of hormones that are usually found in plants, and will now go on to study these Cytokinins (CKs) as potential treatments for viral infections, neurodegenerative diseases and cancer.

CKs are hormones commonly studied in plants and play a significant role in all stages of growth. In mammals, only a single CK had previously been found until this new research discovered six more.

“It was revealed that mammals produce these CKs in a way similar to plants, bacteria and fungi, although researchers have yet to discover their role,” says Mark Seegobin, a Trent Ph.D. student in the Environmental and Life Sciences program who has been researching this topic with Adam Noble, CEO and founder of Noblegen, and under the supervision of Trent’s Dr. Neil Emery and Dr. Craig Brunetti.

In their paper, recently published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal, the researchers suggest that CKs act as signaling molecules, help to regulate other hormones, and are potentially involved in immune responses.

“Understanding their role in mammals might unlock their potential as therapeutic agents and lead to new discoveries in mammalian biology,” Mr. Seegobin says.

Sharing Research Discoveries with the World

This research began in 2014 when Mr. Noble examined the presence of CKs in Euglena, a type of algae.

After successfully finding CKs in Euglena, which shares traits with both plant and animal cells, Mr. Noble wondered, ‘Do animals produce CKs as well?’

After having made the connection from plants to animals, Mr. Noble became interested in how these hormones might have a role in other growing tissues, such as human cancer.

This is when Mr. Seegobin joined the team and began his research, three years ago. Now Mr. Seegobin is heading to Prague in July to share the discoveries at The Auxin and Cytokinin in Plant Development Conference.

“I will present my work there and share our discovery with many of the world’s leading CK researchers,” says. Mr. Seegobin who is in his third-year of graduate studies, expecting to defend for his Ph.D. in April 2020. “Over the remaining course of my Ph.D. studies at Trent, I hope to enlighten us all on how these interesting ‘plant’ hormones may be vital to mammals.”

»Learn more about research at Trent University.