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Research: Nutritious Rice for the World: Project Overview
 
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Nutritious Rice for the World

Project Status and Findings:  
Current project status and findings are reported by the University of Washington's Computational Biology Research Group. To discuss this project, please visit the Nutritious Rice for the World forum.

Mission
The objective of this project is to predict the structure of proteins of major strains of rice. The intent is to help farmers breed better rice strains with higher crop yields, promote greater disease and pest resistance, and utilize a full range of bioavailable nutrients that can benefit people around the world, especially in regions where hunger is a critical concern.

Determining the structure of proteins is an extremely difficult and expensive process. However, it is possible to computationally predict a protein's structure from its corresponding DNA sequence. The Computational Biology Research Group at the University of Washington has developed state of the art software to accomplish this. The difficulty is, there are thousands of distinct proteins found in rice. This presents a computational challenge that a single computer cannot solve within a reasonable timeframe. Therefore, volunteers of World Community Grid are invited to assist in this daunting task. Through collaboration with agricultural researchers and farmers, the hope is to eventually improve global rice yields and quality.

Significance
Hunger and malnutrition are the top risks to health worldwide. Nearly 30 percent of the world's population suffers from some form of malnutrition [1]. Every year, 10 million people die of hunger and hunger-related diseases. In fact, more people die from hunger and malnutrition annually than from AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined [2].

Rice is the main food staple of more than half the world's population. 20 percent of the total food energy intake for every man, woman, and child in the world comes from rice. In Asia alone, more than 2 billion people get up to 70 percent of their daily dietary energy from rice and its by-products [3].

Improving strains of rice to yield larger, more resilient, and nutritionally-optimized harvests will positively impact the lives of billions of people.

Approach
Making better strains of rice has traditionally been accomplished through cross breeding of strains to produce hybrids with the best features. However, this is limited to crossing strains with easily observable traits.

Complex traits (such as high yield, disease resistance, or nutrient content) come from complex biochemical interactions of individual component proteins. Identifying such proteins and understanding their properties and interactions gives farmers the opportunity to affect these traits in a refined manner by choosing more subtle candidates for cross breeding. Predicting the structure of proteins can provide insight into the roles they play in the biochemistry of these traits.

  1. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (See this pdf.)
  2. According to the United Nations World Food Programme. (See Horizon of Hope by John M. Powell, Deputy Executive Director of World Food Programme's External Affairs and Resource Development Department.)
  3. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (See the "Rice is life": International Rice Commission meets in Peru press release.)

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