James’s research aims to understand how minerals are taken up and transported by cereal crops, and how this information can be used to generate crops with higher levels of minerals, particularly iron.
A billion people in the world are iron deficient, particularly in areas where cereals form the bulk of the diet as these are low in minerals.
Although iron is essential for life it can be toxic in excess, so plants tightly regulate iron uptake and distribution, keeping levels low.
Overriding these regulatory mechanisms to get more iron into edible parts of the plant without causing damage is a challenge and it’s important to understand the processes involved.
James uses a wide range of techniques from protein biochemistry to phenotypic analysis of mutant populations of wheat, and collaborates closely with human nutritionists to study how well iron from cereals is absorbed in the gut.