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NAU discovery could help feed millions
Date:5/27/2009

When scientist Loretta Mayer set out to alleviate diseases associated with menopause, she didn't realize her work could lead to addressing world hunger and feeding hundreds of millions of people.

The Northern Arizona University researcher and her colleagues at NAU and the University of Arizona identified a nontoxic chemical technology that when applied to rodents, caused infertility in rats, which feast on crops intended for human consumption.

"This environmentally neutral approach, that has never been available before, will reduce the damage rice-field rats cause in countries that depend on rice as a main food supply," Mayer said.

Rodents consume or damage up to 50 percent of pre-harvest rice crops. Due to the large-scale cultivation of rice worldwide, if rice production were to increase by 10 percent, "this would feed about 380 million people a year," Mayer said. "We can easily increase rice production by 10 percent by reducing rodent fertility in half."

She said this noninvasive approach is more humane than poison, which takes several days to kill rodents and seeps into groundwater, harming other animals and possible food sources.

The sterilization technology derived from Mayer's research, done by Patricia Hoyer and and Glenn Sipes at UofA, investigated potential damage caused to ovarian follicles in women exposed to certain chemicals in industrial settings. Of particular interest was a chemical compound known as 4-vinylcyclohexene diepoxide, or VCD, typically used in manufacturing rubber tires, polyesters and plastics.

She found that low, nontoxic doses of VCD in mice sped the menopausal process and rendered them infertile. She dubbed this new animal model of accelerated menopause "mouseopause."

Mayer and her colleagues have developed a product called ContraPest that incorporates the chemical sterilization treatment into bait. The bait is put into strategically placed stations that lure
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Contact: Diane Rechel
Diane.Rechel@nau.edu
928-523-0611
Northern Arizona University
Source:Eurekalert  

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