Associate Director: GIBEX-Americas
Dr. de Mejia is an Associate Professor, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition and Interdisciplinary Environmental Toxicology Program, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The long-range goal of my research program is to enhance the health of individuals by identifying and determining the benefits of bioactive components within plant foods. My research centers on elucidating how biologically active food components, at the cellular and molecular levels, may decrease the risk of disease, particularly cancer. It includes the study of novel proteins, flavonoids and bioactive peptides from diverse food sources and their effect on various types of human cancer cells. In the United States, cancer is a major contributor to mortality, exceeded only by heart disease. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2001 there were 553,768 cancer deaths and it has been estimated that 1.37 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2004. Therefore, since arriving at Illinois, I have focused my research on the study of the mechanism of action of bioactive food components with potential against cancer. Human cancer cells are good models to study the mechanisms of action of chemopreventive agents, and my laboratory has developed a variety of in vitro and in vivo methodologies that can be used to determine the effects and modes of action of bioactive substances. These include immunological techniques, enzymatic assays, cell cycle distribution assays, antioxidant capacity assays and apoptotic (cell death) responses.
My research approach focuses on three strategic areas:
- The chemical analyses and characterization of bioactive food components;
- the biological effects of these bioactive food components; and
- the elucidation of their mechanisms of action.