Another bite of the cherry

Another bite of the cherry.

Two Kent experts in the biology of ageing are on a mission to improve the sustainability of cherry farming.

Having worked together earlier in their careers Dr Marina Ezcurra and Dr Jenny Tullet were keen to work together again. Looking for new ways of using their knowledge of genetics and molecular biology, they had been thinking about how natural compounds could be used to benefit society.

A colleague introduced them to Kent cherry grower Michael Dalloway. Kent produces 90% of the UK's cherries but Jenny and Maria were shocked to learn how much 'imperfect' fruit ends up being sent to landfill. 

“We just thought, ‘this is ridiculous, we have to do something about this’. Michael was driving around picking up ‘waste’ cherries to make his cherry juice, so we wanted to use our expertise to help show how nutritious this juice is, to help people understand that ‘damaged’ fruit can still have health benefits and stop so much of it being wasted.” 

Jenny and Marina are enjoying working together again:

“If you’d told us a year ago that we’d secure £300,000 in funding for a research project focusing on Kent cherries, we probably wouldn’t have believed it!

It’s been great though, really nice to get back together. We get along very well and have always enjoyed working collaboratively. We share a lab; it’s fun!”

Work began in August 2022 and although it’s very early days, the data already looks promising. “The project addresses so many key issues of our time: it could help farmers make the most of the crops they produce; educate people about nutrition; create new natural foodstuffs; and possibly identify a natural compound that could ameliorate the effects of ageing. That would be fantastic… and all through cherries, which are so tasty!”

Alongside their research, both Jenny and Marina teach undergraduate and postgraduate students, involving them in their live projects. So, they can add ‘inspiring the next generation of scientists’ to their list of successes too.

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