Our two main areas of research:
- Bioactivity – we test for potential biological activity of various compounds that can be sourced from plants, marine environment, dairy, meat and other sources.
- Bioavailability - we determine how much of a nutrient is available for intestinal absorption and how much is actually absorbed by intestinal cells. Our model has been established for investigating the bioavailability of vitamin A, vitamin E and the plant compounds known as carotenoids.
Our team primarily uses in vitro bioassays which are either bench-based or cell-based. The term in vitro refers to an experimental situation outside the organism. Bioassay is a commonly used term for the phrase ‘biological assay’.
Bench-based assays involve biological or chemical analysis that is conducted in the test tube rather than in living systems.
Cell based assays allow researchers to examine cellular processes at the molecular level, something that is not always possible in vivo. Cell based assays are an important indicator of toxicity and effectiveness of potential functional compounds. New developments in cell based assay technology allow researchers to more closely approximate in vivo conditions.
Cells are cultured and maintained at an appropriate temperature and gas mixture (typically 37°C, 5% CO2 for mammalian cells) in a cell incubator. Aside from temperature and gas mixture, the most commonly varied factor in culture systems is the growth medium. Growth media vary according to the cell type that is to be cultured. Growth factors are used to supplement media. Many cell culture laboratories supplement their growth media with antibiotics to mask contamination and/or poor laboratory technique. We do not use antibiotics in our cell culture laboratory.
In addition, part of our team works on a Health survey involving a longitudinal study of changes in Body Mass Index (BMI), anthropometric measures, dietary intake and physical activity in cohorts of secondary school-going adolescents.