Natural Foods Merchandiser

Functional Foods' Effects Visible

Imagine being able to see, neuron by neuron, which parts of the brain are activated when a person ingests the ingredients in functional foods. This is no science fiction musing; this is reality. Thuris Corp., based in Irvine, Calif., has agreed to collaborate with Dusseldorf, Germany-based Degussa Food Ingredients on a project that could explain the action of compounds on the brain.

Thuris will assay compounds and extracts that Degussa believes can act as central nervous system bioactives. "An important product line in our portfolio consists of products to improve mental fitness and stability," said Hans-Ullrich Hoppe, vice president of research at Degussa, in a news release.

"They believe they have compounds that do have action on the brain, but they don't know where and they don't know what," said Keith B. Hoffman, chief operating officer for Thuris, in an interview with NFM.

But Thuris believes its proprietary BrainPrint technology will allow them to find out. The biopharmaceutical company will look at the brains of animals after they have ingested the test compounds. "We take the brains out ... and determine which parts of the brain have been turned on and off," Hoffman said. Unlike positron emission tomography (commonly known as a PET scan), which is done on a live subject and shows activation only in vast regions of the brain, BrainPrints point out which specific neurons are activated—or deactivated—by the ingredient in question. In addition, BrainPrint technology helps researchers understand not just where neurons are turned on, but also how and why.

Even though the studies will be conducted on rodents, investigators expect the information to be highly transferable to humans. "There's a great [anatomical] correlation; it maps very well," Hoffman explained.

While Degussa is not disclosing the compounds it will initially study, the company is hopeful that the research will be successful and the ingredients can be added to functional foods in the United States. "Some of the things they already have are already GRAS," said Hoffman.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIV/number 10/p. 10

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