We undertake multidisciplinary collaborative research with the aim of developing targeted foods or groups of foods to prevent, ameliorate or cure inflammatory diseases. Our initial target is Crohn's disease, but our experience in this condition is applicable to other autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, eczema and asthma.
Our aim is to use the sensitivity and specificity of nutritional genomic methods to explain how foods and food components affect health at the molecular genetic level. These methods include human genotyping, gene expression, metabolomics and proteomics. The burgeoning international research shows their unique applications in the development of novel foods or food packages for pet nutrition, larger animal nutrition (sheep, goats, cows, horses) and for humans.
Our chemists extract foods and use biological assays to guide the purification of bioactive compounds. The chemical structures of these compounds are determined by instrumental methods such as mass spectrometry and NMR spectroscopy. We can then select food varieties with high concentrations of the bioactive compounds for further development.
Our biochemists and cell biologists develop and run the high throughput biological assays used to identify food components that interact with inflammatory pathways. Ideally we are looking for compounds that ‘cure’ a genetic defect, but we also identify general anti-inflammatory compounds.
Our animal physiologists take potential foods or food combinations and investigate these in animal models of inflammation using our suite of molecular techniques.
We then take potential beneficial foods and diets, and trial these in human intervention studies, using biomarker endpoints of success (because foods cannot be ethically tested with a disease endpoint). Metabolomics may also be used to ensure food intake compliance in these intervention studies.
The data generated throughout this research is integrated through our databases and systems biology approaches. We have published almost 200 peer reviewed papers up to 2012.