The processing of food, vegetables and other plant materials leads to large amounts of by-products that are not needed for the final product. These include solid residues from fruits and seeds from pressing that still contain many valuable ingredients, but are not required for the production of food. FoodSolutionsTeam (FST) from Konstanz is developing technologies that enable these by-products to be transformed into valuable food ingredients that are suitable for human consumption. FST tests and combines different processes with the objective of finding a method that can transform almost worthless food production by-products into innovative food ingredients.
Many findings indicate that the consumption of cruciferous vegetable plants rich in mustard oil glycosides has a cancer-inhibiting effect. Researchers from Heidelberg have now shown that sulforaphane, a broccoli mustard oil, blocks a signalling pathway that makes tumour stem cells resistant to cytotoxic drugs. The administration of sulforaphane can prevent therapy resistance and metastasis of pancreatic cancer in animal models.
Nowadays everything must be good for something must have a direct noticeable or tangible effect. The ever topical issue of nutrition is no exception. All this makes functional food a promising and inexhaustible market. Teams of scientists around the world are focussing on how unhealthy food can be made healthy. Bioactive plant foods are expected to close a gap that should not have existed in the first place.
The oxidation state of the cells in our body is very important for us: if the normal balance of the distribution of endogenous oxidants is disturbed or if they attack cellular structures, cells are either unable or only partially able to fulfil their functions, and diseases develop. Dr. Tobias Dick and his team of researchers at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg have now developed a biosensor that facilitates real-time measurements of subtle oxidative changes in metabolism and has led to completely new insights into the body.
Secondary hop compounds appear to have a positive effect on the immune system and therefore have the potential to be used for the treatment and prevention of cancer. However, the bioavailability of hop compounds in the human body is relatively poor. Researchers from Hohenheim and Tübingen are therefore looking for a way to increase their absorption rate.
Infections caused by bacteria that contaminate the surface of medical devices such as catheters and wound dressings are not that rare and can even be life-threatening. However, at present there is no really effective way to keep these products germ-free until they are used. Scientists at the University of Freiburg have now developed a surface coating that reliably kills bacteria, but is harmless to human cells.
It is difficult for natural substances to enter the drug industry. With the aim of enabling secondary plant substances to reach consumers, the Department of Biology at the Institute of Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology at the University of Heidelberg has joined the Bioactive Plant Products network.
Esslingen-based BioTeSys GmbH is contracted by its clients to determine the bioactive potential of substances and substance mixtures of foods and dietary supplements. Substances are tested whether or not they have a positive effect on human health using a range of chemical analyses, cell-based tests and clinical trials.
Researchers from the Institute of Analytical Chemistry at the Mannheim University of Applied Sciences are focusing on sensors in their effort to increase the yields of bioreactors and reduce the number of animals used for toxicity testing of pharmaceuticals. In addition, the chemists from Mannheim are aiming to investigate the activity of plant substances in the Bioactive Plant Foods Network, a transnational network for the promotion of bioactive plant ingredients.
Bioactive substances are the speciality of BioTeSys GmbH an Esslingen-based biotech company. The company works with a range of products including cosmetics plant and berry extracts and low-dosage non-prescription food supplements. BioTeSys investigates the efficacy of the active ingredients of such products as well as the raw materials used to manufacture them.
The Bioactive Plant Foods network which is coordinated by the Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum in Stuttgart is focused on developing innovative products that have a positive effect on human health and placing them on the market. Research resolves around the health-promoting effect of amaranth a short-lived plant with catkin-like cymes of densely packed red flowers. More than 20 partners from industry science and marketing have been working together since 2010 to advance the issue of biological activity and health. The coordinator of the network Hartmut Welck provides insights into this sector in Baden-Württemberg the successes that have been achieved by network partners and why the network is particularly focussing on amaranth.
At the recent Science meets Business Day four tandem teams of the German BioValley Platform presented their projects. These will be introduced in two articles. The first article focuses on natural substances with a pharmaceutical potential.
VivaCell Biotechnology GmbH offers in vivo and in vitro demonstration of the efficacy of pharmaceutical and phytopharmaceutical compounds and nutraceuticals. Using its specific in vitro and in vivo models, the company has been able to prove the health-enhancing effect of numerous foods, and is thus an excellent partner in the Bioactive Plant Foods Network.
The increasing demand for functional foods clearly shows that the role of food is no longer just to meet an essential need. Food that offers additional nutritional benefits is becoming increasingly important for example food that is able to prevent or treat diseases. This kind of food is therefore interesting for consumers the food industry and the healthcare sector alike. Products based on plant raw materials are particularly in demand due to the variety of natural health-promoting ingredients. In the spotlight are plants such as quinoa which are rich in gluten-free protein magnesium iron and unsaturated fatty acids.
Dr. Brigitte Angres and Dr. Helmut Wurst, founders and managing directors of Cellendes GmbH in Reutlingen, have developed an innovative synthetic hydrogel for cultivating cells. This enables better testing of new active substances, for example in the pharmaceutical industry, because it facilitates a more natural cell environment. This innovative hydrogel is set to be marketed worldwide from 2010 onwards.
Biotechnological methods are used to investigate marine life and the results obtained from these investigations advance research in the fields of medicine and energy and into substances used as food supplements and cosmetics. The area of marine biotechnology is fairly diverse. Although it is not on the coast even the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg is involved in marine biotechnology.
Following the expansion of the fish facilities at the Institute of Toxicology and Genetics (ITG) in Karlsruhe, Germany, the researchers from Karlsruhe now have more than 8,000 fish tanks at their disposal for research purposes. The ITG researchers’ principal area of focus is the systematic analysis of key molecules in development and regeneration processes, which makes an important contribution to the BioInterfaces research programme of the Helmholtz Society. The researchers mainly work with embryos of small freshwater fish such as zebrafish (Danio rerio) and the Japanese pointed head medaka (Oryzias orthognathus).
Wolfgang Neldner is the Managing Director of Esslingen-based Anoxymer GmbH, a company which commercialises teas, herbal mixes and plant extracts for use in the food and cosmetics industries. Here he gives the manufacturer’s viewpoint of how the EU Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation is affecting the food industry.
Oligosaccharides and low-molecular polysaccharides are polymers made of different sugar units. Specialist companies such as Esslingen-based Anoxymer GmbH are focusing on plant sugar structures that have a therapeutic and preventive benefit.
The gastrointestinal tract and its nervous system have numerous functions related to the uptake of food and they also play an important role in the development of adiposity. The Institute of Nutritional Medicine at the University of Hohenheim Germany carries out numerous projects aimed at investigating the relationships between food uptake digestive and nervous systems thus making the institute an excellent partner in the Bioactive Plant Foods network.
Cells grown on the flat furfaces of tissue culture plates do not behave as they would in their natural environment. This is why scientists are now using three-dimensional substrates to replicate the natural environmental of cells in tissue cellular matrix. Dr. Brigitte Angres and Dr. Helmut Wurst founders and managing directors of Cellendes GmbH in Reutlingen have taken advantage of this new knowledge and developed two novel hydrogels for cell cultivation.
An ever-growing number of genomes of soil bacteria of the genus Streptomyces are being sequenced. Using a method known as “genome mining”, researchers at the University of Tübingen are working on the identification of gene clusters that have the potential to be used in industrial biotechnology for the production of new antibiotics and other pharmaceutically active substances. To achieve this, the biosynthesis gene clusters are integrated into special production strains where they are optimized.
The likelihood of developing colon cancer very much depends on dietary factors. Foods and nutrients with antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties have been found to reduce the likelihood of developing this kind of cancer. Research done by scientists from the Karlsruhe-based Max Rubner-Institut suggests that cloudy apple juice can prevent colon cancer. However, little is yet known about the molecular relationships between diet and disease.