FHI applies pharma technique to mine bioactive milk compounds

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Taste Nutrition

High content analysis (HCA), a technology previously used in pharmaceuticals, is being utilised by Food for Health Ireland (FHI) to pioneer functional health ingredients from the most potent bioactive compounds from milk.

The technology, also known as cellomics, is said to cut the time it takes to bring functional compounds to market from 10 years to just three or four and has the potential to be an affordable instrument for food processors hoping to develop the latest health ingredients.

What is it?

In an interview with FHI’s CEO Jens Bleiel and cellomics project leader Dr. Peter O’Brien, DairyReporter.com was told how HCA used a combination of technologies to observe live cells.

In HCA, microscopy and multiple fluorescent dyes are used to visualise and characterise a cell’s biochemical, physiological and morphological responses to a milk-derived bioactive. The cells are screened for the specific functional effects of milk bioactives that may translate into bioavailable, safe and effective bioactives for foods.

The FHI chiefs explained how the technology had been used in pharmaceuticals for around 10 years to help scientists chose cells for drugs and to predict side effects. HCA had increased the speed and the amount of information to be found from cell analysis and provided a more user friendly model than previous methods, they said.

To FHI’s knowledge, HCA was not being used outside of Ireland as a food technology. Although O’Brien said there may be dabbling that had not been publically disclosed.

Benefits for food processors

An HCA analysis of milk could provide future health components for infant formula and dietary supplements, the CEO said. It could also unearth ingredients for metabolic health, including lower cholesterol or blood pressure, and produce compounds for muscle building for the elderly, he added.

One of the challenges, the pair said, was to produce a compound that did not produce a bitter taste. They explained how FHI were currently working with encapsulation technologies to prevent such taste defects.

FHI said it hoped to make HCA more viable for food processors to implement the technology in R & D departments.

O’Brien explained that when the cellomics were introduced in pharmaceuticals, a single analyser cost roughly $1m (€794,630). However, today, the price has come down some 75 per cent, he said, and could be far more affordable for processors. As a result of the price drop, the technology has begun to be used by academia, he added.

Where next?

FHI has added the technology to its ‘Intelligent Milk Mining’ initiative, a project that seeks to find bioactives peptides in milk that have a positive impact on body functions.

O’Brien said that his team had already developed the first functional compounds. The next step, he said, was to reconfirm their functionality, test the compounds in an animal model and finally undertake human intervention studies. This could take between 18 to 14 months and commercially available ingredients could take around 3 years.

FHI will also need to establish how food processors can produce compounds economically within existing facilities.

Bleiel said his organisation will make information on HCA analysis publicly available very soon with a publication expected in the coming months.

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