What lies behind the data shown on a LCD screen? What do the numbers express and moreover, can we trust them? Is the value displayed correct and can we deduct the right conclusion to set a responsive course of action?
Sugar is not only a widely used food ingredient but can also be used as possible starting point for high-added-value products. The European research consortium of CARBAFIN explores different ways to make use of sugar beet biomass: the sugar components glucose and fructose are starting points for the production of important ingredients for not only food/feed but also cosmetics. Besides, fructose can be further converted to a platform chemical, which is applied to the production of bioplastics, biofuels or biopolymers, as well as resins. In other words, CARBAFIN people sweeten our lives!
Microorganisms play a crucial role for the health and well-being of higher organisms. Host-specific microbial communities of varying complexity form the so-called microbiota. It can consist of several thousand microbial species and includes bacteria, archaea and fungi. These microorganisms exchange a plethora of metabolites with their hosts and can modulate their functioning. Such interactions equally affect humans, animals and plants. This provides us with novel strategies to counteract various diseases and increase the resistance of higher organisms towards abiotic and biotic stresses by modulating the microbiota.
Pink, fat and healthy – that’s how we visualize the ideal pig. But what if Pink Beauty’s stomach is upset? There can be a range of consequences from stress to enteritis, from reduced fattening performance for the industry to a decline of meat quality for the consumer. In a recent survey conducted by the Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (acib), University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) and IPUS GmbH Rottenmann, scientists sort to find out how acidification during feed digestion can be managed and which natural feed additives support animal health and welfare.
Meat is very fastidious and resource-demanding in its production, still the wastage of spoiled meat products is enormous. Nowadays, a plethora of preservation techniques is available, but many of them cannot fulfill consumer’s demands or are not implementable for industrial production. We evaluated a novel method that is based on bacterial metabolites, which are produced by highly competitive microorganisms that colonize plants and protect them from pathogens. The conducted analyses lead to the conclusion that the microbial load in certain meat products can be significantly reduced by applying nature-based diazine derivatives that are typical metabolites of such beneficial bacteria.
The contamination of chicken eggs with fipronil led to a Europe-wide outcry in 2017. Although this specific case was not in compliance with current regulations, other treatments of hatching eggs with hazardous substances are still common. Contaminations of the eggshells with potentially animal-pathogenic microorganisms require fumigation with toxic chemicals for efficient breeding. Researchers evaluated an alternative decontamination method that is based on bacterial metabolites and showed that it is as efficient as conventional methods.
Enzymes are the tiny helpers of industrial biotechnology. Despite their microscopic size, they need to be tough and diligent because we want them to catalyze a broad range of reactions, ideally with the speed of light for ever after. In reality, however, many enzymes are like sensitive creatures, who need most careful attention and special treats to get their nicest behavior. Otherwise they might fade away like a tender flower in the blinking sun… and send the biotechnologists into terrible trouble. One strategy to find frugal enzymes is to look at thermophilic organisms. They sometimes harbor a treasure of more stable proteins because they are used to withstand somewhat unfriendly conditions such as high temperatures.
Fungi are ubiquitous organisms which have made a beneficial contribution to human development. This association dates back to 3000 B.C. when it is believed that for the first time, Egyptians used yeast for baking bread and brewing beer. Later with the discovery of penicillin from Penicillium chrysogenum, fungal antibiotics gained widespread use in treatment of infections. In the research field too, fungi serve as a model for genetics and cell biology. Filamentous fungi are known for secreting huge amounts of secondary metabolites like enzymes, organic acids, cyclosporins, and steroids. These valuable compounds have vast applications in several industries such as food, beverages, textiles, and pharmaceuticals. A well-known filamentous fungi is Aspergillus niger, an industrial workhorse for production of high titers of organic acids and enzymes.
What if we had a system mirroring the cross-talk between microbes and complex ‘super-organisms’ like humans or animals? Understanding the relationships between hosts and commensal bacteria might help fighting gut flora associated chronic diseases such as diabetes type II, Morbus Crohn, Colitis Ulcerosa. By that, the necessity for multifaceted medication could be cut and animal trials reduced. Establishing unique microbiome-databases, personal tests are thinkable and the creation of individual ‘avatars’ possible. Furthermore, animal-specific chips could mimic diverse livestock groups. The future not only lies, but also fits in our hand with a microbiome-on-a-chip lab device.
The mankind flies to the moon, explores the universe – but still on earth there is much more unexplored matter than we are aware of. Bioprospecting is a discipline, where new products and processes are discovered based on natural resources. The big ideas and innovations for industrial processes are right in front of us – we just have to observe nature and – which is the difficulty – recognize them.