Dr Eugenia Barros is a Principal Researcher (Biotechnology and Biosafety field) at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. She studied genetics, biochemistry and microbiology at the University of the Witwatersrand and obtained a PhD in molecular biology at the University of Cape Town. She has more than 10 years experience in molecular marker technology in cereal crops and eucalyptus. She also works closely with the tree improvement group on biotechnology projects.
She has worked in research projects involving gene cloning and gene expression of bacteria for industrial applications and in projects involving the development of molecular markers using various molecular marker technologies for DNA profiling, genetic purity evaluation and marker-assisted selection (MAS) of cereal crops, legumes, trees and fungi. She has also worked on detection methods for genetically modified (GM) plants using protein (ELISA) and DNA methods (normal PCR and Real Time PCR).
Her core skills base is focused in molecular genetics and molecular markers, with specific experience in molecular biology. She has six years experience in gene cloning and gene expression of bacteria for industrial applications, and seven years experience in the various molecular marker technologies in cereal crops, legumes, trees and fungi.
Her research interests focus on the development of molecular markers linked to genes coding for important traits using cDNA based marker technologies. It includes the generation of ESTs for both marker-assisted selection and identification of candidate genes, the generation of diversity arrays, and the integration of bioinformatics with marker assisted selection. She is involved in DNA fingerprinting of cereal crops, trees, fungi and other plants for identity preservation, parentage analysis, molecular marker development for marker assisted selection (MAS) and for gene identification.
Current project details
The DNA fingerprinting of cereal crops (maize, wheat, barley, sorghum and sunflower) aims to identify DNA markers linked to a trait of interest. The techniques used in the identification of DNA markers include RFLP (restriction fragment length polymorphism), RAPD (random amplified polymorphic DNA) and AFLP (amplified restriction fragment polymorphism). RAPDs and AFLPs are based on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The traits of interest are either of agricultural importance or quantitative traits. The identification of markers is very useful in marker assisted selection in that plant breeders can rely on DNA markers to confirm the presence of a particular trait in their breeding material.
The analysis of isozyme tests the purity of maize hybrid seeds. Thousands of seeds are tested every year before being sold to the farmers as hybrid seed. Activities include the development and implementation of a Salmonella testing kit, which is a quick and highly specific DNA based test to identify Salmonella contamination in food and water, and the evaluation of a bacterially mediated drought tolerance mechanism in maize.