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How Cambridge biochemist Prof Paul Dupree teamed up with his 80-year-old dad to solve plant mystery

last modified Feb 14, 2017 01:51 PM

A father and son team have unlocked the secrets of the strength in plants. Cambridge biochemist Professor Paul Dupree was puzzled as to how cellulose and xylan molecules, which are 10,000 times narrower than the width of a human hair, came together to form strong cell walls in wood, straw and other plants - until his 80-year-old dad Ray agreed to help.


The research has opened up so many possibilities. It could be classified as one of the biggest breakthroughs in 10 years in this field of plant science. I had an idea of how this worked but I needed solid evidence to support my theory,”

Professor Dupree

Analysing how things work – whether it’s to do with wind speeds on Jupiter or the life cycle of the large blue butterfly – is fundamental to all science.

While much has been learned, there is still a lot we don’t understand, with some of the great mysteries involving items we come across every day.

Professor Paul Dupree, at the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge, has been puzzling over the make-up of plants, particularly how some – such as wood or straw – grow strong, robust walls.

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