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Hector Aguilar

Hector Aguilar
Biological Science Major



Research:

“Development of a DNA barcoding reference library for identification of medicinal plant materials used in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas: A representative case study using Arnica (Asteraceae)”
DNA barcoding is a method of using short DNA sequences to indentify species. The objectives of this study are:
1) To develop a DNA barcoding reference database for the ca. 150 Asteraceae (sunflower family) species found in the Lower Rio Grande Valley using two different genome markers.
2) To conduct phylogenetic analyses and provide a framework where unidentified herbal samples can be added for authentication.
3) To test this system by using herbal materials sold as Arnica in local yerberías or herbal stores.
Developing a DNA barcoding database for a local set of plants is a proof-of-concept study that will test the feasibility of using DNA barcoding methods to authenticate herbal products and botanical supplements that cannot be identified based on traditional methods. Herbal products are notoriously difficult to identify because most morphological and anatomical evidence is destroyed when materials are shredded or pulverized for teas or pills. Products from misidentified specimens can lead to poisonings, potential drug interactions or other side effects and DNA barcoding reference data will help to quickly and correctly identify the source of any materials used in the herbal trade.

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