Dr. Edwin Abeln
- healthy food
Pre- and probiotics have beneficial effects on the intestines, the immune system and oral health. Manufacturers also like to process them in functional foods. And those that want their products to be considered for a health claim have to ensure that these effects are well founded. TNO's rapid, accurate microflora analysis method offers a solution and can significantly reduce time-to-market for new products.
Pre- and probiotics are beneficial for the intestines, the immune system and oral health, which makes them very suitable candidates for products with a health claim. The scientific foundation of a claim, however, often precedes many studies. Indeed, pre- and probiotics must be demonstrated to remain intact during their passage through the gastrointestinal tract and that they specifically influence the microflora in the intestine or mouth. Sometimes it is also relevant to look at the effects among special groups like older people, babies or people with a food allergy. Traditional methods for analysing complex microflora - cell culture combined with microscopic research - can take a week or so and they often generate insufficient information. Some bacteria cannot be identified while others are difficult to cultivate and thus analyse.
TNO has developed a technology that is able to quickly and accurately identify the composition of complex microflora, thereby considerably reducing the time-to-market of a new product or providing quick insight into the competing properties of an existing product. The technique is based on the analysis of bacterial DNA and is independent of information from genome databases. The DNA profile is the basis for a customised microflora chip that is able to determine the composition of hundreds of samples simultaneously. Shifts in the composition of the microflora - for instance, before and after intake of probiotics - can be investigated using this technology. The microflora chips can be customised for every conceivable complex microflora. TNO has developed microflora chips that focus on the human intestine (intestinal or I-chip), mouth- (oral or O-chip), skin (skin or S-chip) and vaginal flora. There are also microflora chips specific to dog and cat intestinal flora.
TNO's DNA analysis method is the result if close collaboration between specialists from the fields of microbial genomics, microbiology, ingredients and bioinformatics. This multidisciplinary backdrop enables TNO to combine bacterial DNA analyses with in vitro research methods, like the artificial gut system and TIM-II colon model. The technology can, moreover, be used as an analytical tool in intervention studies.