For the first time in history, chronic non-commu¬nicable diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes pose a greater, global health burden to modern societies than do infectious diseases. According to a study of the United Nations published in September 2011, they contribute to more than 35 million deaths per year. Countries, which have adopted the Western diet dominated by affordable convenience meals and other processed food products, report increasing problems with obesity and related issues. World-wide, there are approximately 30% more people who are obese than who are undernourished. It is also reported that up to 40% of normal-weight people develop the diseases that constitute the metabolic syn-drome: diabetes, hypertension, lipid problems, cardio-vascular disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Obesity is not always the cause; rather, it is a marker for malnutrition and metabolic dysfunction.
Changing nutritional habits is difficult and consumer preferences for prod-ucts and brands are firmly established. As a consequence, BRAIN decided to use molecular biology technologies to develop novel taste modulators and nutraceuticals from natural resources.
Conventional, recombinant screening technologies led to the discovery of taste modulators but also revealed drawbacks. Ideally, human taste cells should be used to emulate the complexity of human taste response to taste modulators in a most natural way. However, human taste cells are short-lived and don’t proliferate and thus escaped approaches to establish homogenous taste cell lines with defined properties, a prerequisite to es-tablishing comprehensive research and screening programs. Research efforts at BRAIN are now bearing fruit and bring screening technology a significant step closer to this ideal.
“We used biopsy samples from human lingual epithelium containing taste buds from fungiform, foliate and circumvallate papillae to generate human taste cell lines”, states Dr. Andreas Hochheimer, who is heading this re-search and technology development program at BRAIN. “We obtained several immortalized human taste cell lines suitable for investigating en-dogenous gustatory responses of human taste cells as well as for launch-ing screening programs to identify taste modulators in a high-throughput fashion. These cell lines share many features with taste cells from other model organisms that have been studied in the past but also provide val-uable new insights into human taste reception and signal transduction mechanisms.”
“We expect that this next-generation ScreenLine-technology will synergize with our previously established recombinant screening technologies and will provide additional leverage to identify and develop novel nutraceuticals for mass consumer markets more efficiently”, adds Dr. Michael Krohn, Head of the BioActives Business Unit at BRAIN.
“For BRAIN this technological breakthrough is an important milestone within our corporate strategy to enlarge the BRAIN Technology Platform“, says Dr. Holger Zinke, CEO of BRAIN. “Obviously, we will use our first-mover-advantage in this important business segment and we will share the technological leadership with our strategic collaboration partners or provide the technology on a licence basis. This groundbreaking Screen-Line technology is covered by international patent applications.”
BRAIN will present the latest scientific discoveries with this new technolo-gy at the annual meeting of the Association for Chemoreception Sciences (AChemS), an international association that advances understanding of the senses of taste and smell, in Huntington Beach, USA on April 27, 2012.