From fields to labs: The bioactive tapestry of seedy bananas

12. February 2024 ScholarsAlumni
In a blend of nature and science, discover the story of seedy bananas and how a researcher's pursuit is transforming them to potential functional foods

In 2016, Hoai Tran completed a Master's degree in Food Technology at the Vietnam National University of Agriculture. Since then, her professional journey has led her to the Department of Biochemistry and Food Biotechnology at the same university, focusing on the extraction and purification of bioactive compounds from plants, particularly medicinal ones.

Currently pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) in Vienna, Austria, through the OeAD Ernst Mach-scholarship program, her project is centered on the purification and determination of bioactive compounds in seedy bananas. Under the guidance of Prof. Thomas Rosenau and advisor Dr. Stefan Böhmdorfer at the Institute of Chemistry of Renewable Resource, her work aims to scientifically validate the medicinal properties of these bananas.

Seedy bananas, once popular in Vietnam, have faced a decline in cultivation due to an abundance of seeds and a lack of scientific validation for their health benefits. The biochemist, armed with prior experience in analyzing bioactive compounds in various plants, including tea leaves, bitter melon, and coffee beans, embarked on the Ph.D. journey with a desire to provide reliable scientific proof of seedy banana usage. Her research becomes crucial in encouraging farmers, particularly those in mountainous regions, to cultivate seedy banana plants, not only preserving the biological heritage of these bananas but also potentially contributing to functional food resources.

Beyond academic pursuits, she actively participated in the "BOKU-Vietnamese University Partnership Day" poster session, fostering connections between Vietnamese students at BOKU and promoting scientific cooperation between the two universities. The challenging Ph.D. process was met with inspiration during a hiking trip. Observing a colleague's perseverance despite struggling, she drew parallels to her own journey, realizing that learning is a continuous process – any unknown knowledge can be conquered through perseverance and continuous learning. Studying in Austria has not only upgraded her knowledge and skills but also provided an international environment and comfort in interacting with individuals from diverse backgrounds. She plans to leverage this experience to strengthen scientific cooperation between her home institution and BOKU.

Looking ahead, Hoai Tran aims to successfully publish her research findings, scientifically confirming the bioactive compounds in seedy bananas. With the traditional medicinal usage of these plants validated, she envisions contributing to the preservation of this valuable resource and exploring its potential as a functional food. Post-Ph.D., she plans to apply for a postdoctoral position.

In conclusion, this biochemist's journey is not just an exploration of scientific realms but a commitment to making a positive impact on communities relying on seedy bananas in Vietnam. It is a tale of combining nature and science, transforming overlooked plants into potential sources of health and nutrition