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Research_

Food for health

Improving human health and wellbeing in the agrifood industry
We’re exploring the knowledge and platform technology needed by the agrifood industry to produce safe and sustainable food products and processes that have a positive impact on society.

The focus of this theme is on nutrition, nutraceuticals and microbiome research with the aim of addressing the growing global chronic and non-communicable diseases burden related predominantly to poor diet such as cardiovascular, diabetes II, obesity, some types of cancers, etc. The projects are at the interface between food engineering and medicine and in particular related to the developing of new nutritional foods and their potential health benefits, studying processes of digestion and impact on the human microbiome. The scope of this theme will make possible the integration between a network of teams to take a multidisciplinary approach to product development and health-claims validations.

Projects

  • A gut-on-a-chip model for testing the ani-inflammatory effects of active compounds
  • The carbohydrate dimension of nutrition in gut microbiome modulation
  • Discover the complexities of the human digestion process
  • Conceptually modelling diet-gut microbiome interactions: engineering the gut microbiome through dietary manipulations targeted at the individual
  • Food formulation for improving the bioavailability of MK7
  • Engineering a Targeted Delivery System for probiotics
  • In silico and in vitro modelling of diet-host-gut microbe interactions (Dr Mark Read, Lecturer)
  • Novel food supplement with antiviral properties against broad-range pathogens (Dr Jiadai Wu, Research Associate; Associate Professor Aaron Schindeler; Ms Helen Power)

Research team

Dr Jiadai (Daisy) Wu, a chemical engineer with specialisation in protein, peptides, molecular docking and biological research.

Associate Professor Aaron Schindeler, a bioengineer with specialisation in nutraceuticals and genetic engineering.  

Dr Mark Read,  a computer scientist with specialisation in computational immunology; in silico modelling and simulation techniques for understanding bacterial ecosystems in the gut and their impacts on health.

Dr Sepehr Talebian, chemist with expertise in material science and biomedical tissue engineering, drug and probiotic delivery.

Our experts: Professor Fariba Dehghani, Professor David Raubenheimer, Professor Stephen Simpson, Associate Professor Andrew Holmes, Associate Professor John Kavanagh, Associate Professor Laurence Macia, Dr Dale McClure, Dr Mark Read, Dr Peter Valtchev

Our collaborators: Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing Company Ltd

The gut microbiota interacts closely with the host and its nutrition, eliciting profound impacts on host health. There is great interest in promoting microbial-dependent health benefits by manipulating the carbohydrate profile of food, especially by increasing dietary fibre content. A key challenge of this is understanding why dietary fibre supplementation does not produce the same microbial response and health benefits in all individuals.

We hypothesise that different types of dietary fibre and the interactive effects with other diet components shape microbial interactions. To test this hypothesis, we functionally categorised carbohydrates and dietary fibre into four types based on host and microbial-accessibility. We are investigating ten carbohydrate profiles of four dietary contexts, enabling us to map the effects of dietary nutrition to the gut microbial composition, diversity and activity, as well as impacts on host physiology, metabolism and immunity.

We aim to gain a perspective on the microbial and host responses to diet, allowing targeted diet manipulations to modify the gut microbiota and influence host health in personal dietary choices and treatment therapies.

Our experts: Professor Fariba Dehghani, Associate Professor Andrew Holmes, Dr Dale McClure, Dr Mark Read

Our gut contains a complex community made up of millions of microorganisms, these have a large impact on our health. In the gut these microorganisms can interact with each other and our diet to produce compounds which can benefit our health; they can also produce compounds which are not desirable. Understanding the complex interactions in this community is difficult and performing experiments can be very challenging.

We aim to develop lab and computer-based models of the gut microbiome. The end goal of this project is to develop a tool which can be used to simulate the interactions between microbes in the gut. This model can then be used to develop new diets or other interventions which can promote favourable health outcomes and avoid undesirable effects.

Our experts: Professor Fariba Dehghani, Dr Peter Valtchev

We're developing a new “Gut-on-a-chip” microfluidic platforms to address existing product development challenges in pre-clinical studies. Animal models are commonly used for this purpose, but their physiological responses are different from human and they usually fail to predict the actual human clinical outcomes.

Due to these limitations, developing a successful active compound often takes a long time and is expensive. Organ-on-chips are an emergent technology that enables the high throughput screening of bioactive molecules. Designing gut-on-chip to study will help to evaluate the impact of food compounds on inflammatory responses in the human gut.  

Our experts: Professor Fariba Dehghani, Professor David Fletcher, Professor Timothy Langrish, Associate Professor John Kavanagh, Dr Dale McClure

Our collaborators: Professor Paul Singh (University of California Davis, USA), Associate Professor Gail Bornhost (University of California Davis, USA), Dr Simon Harrison (CSIRO)

Understanding how the stomach breaks down food is essential in engineering foods with improved health properties. However, there are obvious challenges with performing experiments in this area.

We aim to develop and validate cutting-edge computational tools which can be used to simulate the stomach. Once these tools have been developed, they can be used to model the stomach, thereby giving an improved understanding of how food breaks down. This can potentially be used to develop foods with improved functional properties, which in turn may lead to improved health benefits for consumers.