Nutritional Biomarkers | Nutriproteomics | Companion Animals
Nutritional biomarkers generally reflect the nutritional status with respect to the intake or metabolism of dietary constituents. These markers may reflect a direct the relationship to dietary intake and can be independently assessed. They are either the dietary nutrients themselves in the body fluids such as blood plasma, urine, milk or saliva or direct end-products of the dietary substances.
However, nutritional biomarkers are influenced not only by dietary aspects but as well by physiological conditions such as gender and age or genetical and environmental factors. More importantly nutritional biomarkers are influenced by acute or chronic diseases.
Our aim is to evaluate in a systematic approach the biological relevance of the interaction of these confounding factors on quantitative and qualitative aspects of nutritional biomarkers. Furthermore, the possibility to use nutritional biomarkers as markers of disease progression will investigated.
Specific areas of interest are gender specificity, kidney function, inflammation, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.
In our understanding, nutritional proteomics or nutriproteomics is not only the application of proteomics methodology to nutrition related research but only be generally defined by the interaction of nutrients with proteins in basically three specific ways. Firstly, the effect of nutrients on protein synthesis and secretion, secondly the interaction of nutrients with proteins (small-molecule-protein interactions) and thirdly, the modulation of protein-protein-interactions trough nutrients. The nutrient will interact with a given protein and will thus change its three-dimensional structure. As a consequence its original functions are modulated resulting in eg. reduced activity in the case of enzymes or changes in ability of the recognition between molecules.
The characterization of such modifications together with functional data from established biochemical and physiological methods will result in a better understanding of the interplay between dietary components and diet related diseases such as cancer, diabetes or neurodegenerative diseases and the occurence of such modifications can possibly used as biomarkers in the diagnosis and therapy of these diseases.
An increasing number of developing countries must shoulder a "double burden" of malnutrition, the persistence of undernutrition, especially among children, along with a rapid rise of overnutrition and diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and coronary heart disease. The growing burden of non-communicable diseases is associated with a substantial rise in public health and social expenditures. Given current economic and social trends, observed changes in dietary patterns are likely to continue and - combined with changes in lifestyle, particularly the decrease in physical activity - will exacerbate emerging problems of overnutrition and diet-related chronic disease.
Our focus is thus concentrated on the relationship between micronutrient deficiencies - especially vitamin A - and diabetes as an important non-communicable disease associated with overweight. In cooperation with the Department of Experimental Food Science (Prof. H. Rawel) we are addressing the question from the basic availability from the diet to its physiological and pathophysiological impact in the target population. Innovative analytical approaches are used to improve quality control on all levels of supplementation.
As in humans certain diseases in companion animals are related to specific lifestyle behaviors, which include dietary composition with regard to energy and specific micronutrients such as vitamins and antioxidants as well as activity level.
Currently, we evaluate specific vitamins such as tocotrienols as well as carotenoids with regard to their bioavailability and antioxidant capacity in companion animals. In cooperation with the Veterinary Clinic for Small Animals of the Freie Universität Berlin we evaluate urinary proteins as biomarkers of kidney function.