Our staff are engaged in a variety research areas spanning the health, food and drink sector and include; the characterisation of the physicochemical and functional properties of foods in particular food proteins, the study of beneficial food related phytochemicals, vaccine development for the aquaculture industry and the toxicology of food additives; this work is well funded by the research councils, government agencies, charities and industry, both nationally and internationally. Examples of some of our research areas are shown below for a complete list of our research please look at individual staff's research pages:
Highlighted Research Areas
Functional properties of food proteins
The molecular dynamics of fats and proteins in both natural and manufactured foods are a key interest. While the study of protein functionality from the molecular level, through bench scale trials up to commercial exploitation of novel protein ingredients, especially as fat replacers in foods. We are also interested in the effect of thermal denaturation and glycation by the Maillard reaction on the functional properties of food proteins (contact Dr Lydia Campbell or Dr Steve Euston).
Characterisation of beneficial food related phytochemicals
The use and development of metabolomics as a high-throughput platform technology for use in plant crop and food science industries. The research approach uses LC-MS and GC-MS and has shown clear evidence for the polyphenolic components of soft fruit to exert potent antioxidant and pharmacological activity, adding scientific and economic value to the fruit and associated products. In particular, determining the effects of many classes of plant phytochemicals on degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancers, and Alzheimer's. We are also interested in developing genetic improvements to oat, with a view to modifying beta-glucan levels for human health benefits (contact Professor Stewart).
Vaccine development for Aquaculture
Aquaculture is also an important aspect of work in food production and the department works on several projects on the development and testing of fish vaccines for fish farms being financed by industry (contact Dr Lyndon or Dr Morris).
Nanomaterials in food
Many different types of engineered nanomaterials (NMs) are being used by the food industry for a variety of purposes. For example, they can be used as pigments to alter the colour of food, or to add vitamins in a form that is more easily absorbed into the body. Some NMs can be used within food contact products (e.g. food packaging, and chopping boards) to prolong the shelf life of food, due to their antimicrobial properties. Although humans are eating NMs in increasing amounts, little is known about their impact upon the gastrointestinal tract (gut). It is also known that NMs can pass from the gut into blood allowing them to be carried around the body and therefore to accumulate in other organs (such as the liver). The local effects of NMs in the gut, and their potential to stimulate distal effects in other organs are not yet known. The Nano-Safety Research Group specialises in the assessment of the hazards posed by nanomaterials to human health.