Margaret Malochleb

Margaret Malochleb

apples

A new platform containing data from more than 100 apple varieties could help streamline the breeding process and enhance health benefits. © PicturePartners/iStock/Getty Images Plus

apples

A new platform containing data from more than 100 apple varieties could help streamline the breeding process and enhance health benefits. © PicturePartners/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Boosting the benefits of apples

Data from more than 100 apple varieties has been collected on a new platform developed by Ohio State University scientists in an effort to improve the breeding process and boost the health benefits of America’s favorite fruit.

The platform combines the genetics behind specific traits and information on hundreds of chemical compounds, ranging from sugars and acids to antioxidants, that contribute to the health benefits of apples. By showing relationships between genetics and the phytochemicals found in apples, the platform could help streamline the breeding process, which sometimes requires decades for a new cultivar.

“We looked for strong relationships at locations in the genome that are not well studied in apple and looked for which compounds we could identify and which had nutritional value,” explained study author Jessica Cooperstone in a press release. “We could go from untargeted data all the way to finding candidate genes responsible for compound production—which researchers can then validate.” The goal, she added, was to take a holistic approach that would improve nutrition without “sacrificing yield, disease resistance, and flavor.”

The research team plans to use the data to get a better understanding of health-promoting compounds of interest and employ biotechnological approaches that could speed up flowering and fruit production.

Food freezing concept enhances safety, quality

A recent study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and University of California–Berkeley scientists concluded that isochoric freezing, which works by storing foods in a sealed, rigid container filled with a liquid, could cut energy use by as much as 6.5 billion kilowatt-hours each year while reducing carbon emissions by 4.6 billion kg, the equivalent of removing roughly 1 million cars from roads.

Unlike conventional freezing, in which food is exposed to air and freezes solid at temperatures below 32°F, isochoric freezing preserves food without turning it to solid ice. As long as the food stays immersed in liquid, it is protected from ice crystallization.

Isochoric freezing also allows for higher quality storage of fresh foods such as tomatoes, sweet cherries, and potatoes, which can be difficult to preserve using conventional freezing methods. Another advantage of the technique is that it kills microbial contaminants during processing.

“The entire food production chain could use isochoric freezing—everyone from growers to food processors, product producers to wholesalers, to retailers,” said Tara McHugh, co-leader of the study and director of the ARS Western Regional Research Center in Albany, in a press release. “The process will even work in a person’s freezer at home after they purchase a product—all without requiring any major investments in new equipment. With all of the many potential benefits, if this innovative concept catches on, it could be the next revolution in freezing foods.”

ARS and UC–Berkeley have applied for a joint patent to use isochoric freezing in the preservation of food and are seeking commercial partners to help transfer the technology to the commercial sector.

3D-bioprinting simulates Wagyu beef

Scientists from Osaka University have 3D-printed a meat alternative, using stem cells isolated from Wagyu cows. The meat alternative contains muscle, fat, and blood vessels arranged to closely resemble conventional steaks. The research provides an important advancement in efforts to create an environmentally friendly and sustainable way of producing cultured meat alternatives.

Wagyu is known for its high content of intramuscular fat, which provides the characteristic rich flavor and distinctive texture of beef. The 3D-printed meat represents a step up from many currently available cultured meat alternatives, which fail to reproduce the complex structure of real beef steaks.

To produce the structures that characterize Wagyu beef, the researchers used two types of stem cells, bovine satellite cells and adipose-derived stem cells, coaxing them to differentiate into various types of cells needed to produce the cultured meat. Once individual fibers, including muscle, fat, or blood vessels, were fabricated from the stem cells using bioprinting, the fibers were then arranged in 3D to reproduce the histological structure of real Wagyu meat.

“By improving this technology, it will be possible to not only reproduce complex meat structures, such as the beautiful sashi of Wagyu beef, but to also make subtle adjustments to the fat and muscle components,” said senior author Michiya Matsusaki in a press release. The development means that consumers would be able to order cultured meat with their desired amount of fat, based on taste and health considerations.

whey processing

Scientists were able to remove and recycle up to 99% of excess salt while refining more than 98% of protein content from whey byproducts produced during dairy processing. © RossHelen /iStock/Getty Images Plus

whey processing

Scientists were able to remove and recycle up to 99% of excess salt while refining more than 98% of protein content from whey byproducts produced during dairy processing. © RossHelen /iStock/Getty Images Plus

Improving sustainability in dairy processing

Whey is one of the most polluting byproducts in the food processing industry, largely due to its high salt content. Recently, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign were able to remove and recycle up to 99% of excess salt from whey while refining more than 98% of the protein content, using an electrochemical redox desalination process. Study results are published in the Chemical Engineering Journal.

The researchers used a chemical redox-coupled dialysis system, which comprises two independently controllable channels for the whey waste and the electrodes, separated by a pair of ion-exchange membranes, to create a reversible redox reaction that results in continuous desalination. The desalination process uses up to 73% less energy and functions at 62% of the operating cost associated with conventional desalination systems, according to the researchers.

During the protein purification process, positively charged sodium ions move from the feed to the redox channel and become chemically reduced at the negative electrode. The negatively charged chloride ions move to the redox channel when the reduced ions are oxidized at the positive electrode, resulting in a sustainable regeneration of the redox couple. The redox channel maintains its electrolyte concentration by releasing removed ions to the feed channel; recovered sodium chloride can then be reused to season cheese, making it a net-zero waste process.

“Remarkably, the performance of protein purification and salt recovery was maintained over multiple cycles, demonstrating outstanding stability and cyclability,” said Xiao Su, study co-author, in a press release. “Overall, our redox-electrochemical process offers a sustainable and electrified platform for the recovery of valuable proteins from dairy production waste, with envisioned integration with renewable electricity in the future. We hope this will be the start of research into sustainable food manufacturing in general.”

Eating fruit and veggies fosters happiness

New findings published in the Journal of Happiness Studies are the first of their kind to unravel the connection among happiness, the consumption of fruit and vegetables, and exercising. Researchers from the University of Kent used an instrumental variable approach to show that the consumption of fruit and vegetables and exercising make people happy and not the other way around.

Findings demonstrate that lifestyle decisions are influenced by an individual’s ability to delay gratification and apply self-control, which positively affects well-being. The research also shows that men appear to exercise more while women eat more fruit and vegetables.

“There has been a bigger shift in recent years for healthier lifestyle choices,” said study co-author Uma Kambhampati in a press release. “To establish that eating more fruit and vegetables and exercising can increase happiness as well as offer health benefits is a major development. This may also prove useful for policy campaigns around environment and sustainability.”

About the Author

Margaret Malochleb,
Associate Editor,
[email protected]
Margaret Malochleb