Proteomics Research at ECU’s School of Science
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Proteomics Research at ECU’s School of Science

Proteins are the building blocks of life,
they make up our cells, tissues and organs and they’re critical for our
nutrition. At ECU, we’re working to better understand the proteins in the food that
we eat and in the plants that make them. We’re doing this through proteomics.
Proteomics is the study of proteins using mass spectrometry. In fact ECU is
part of a newly funded ARC Centre of Excellence. We will use proteomics to
study the peptides that exist in nature. We’ll make new antibiotics, bio-friendly
insecticides, and healthier food. And this will benefit society, our environment, and
the economy. As part of our research into proteins, we are exploring grains. Grains
are the edible seeds of many grasses – and they are important in our daily diet.
They provide energy, protein, fiber and nutrients. However, grains can trigger
immune reactions, resulting in food allergies and food intolerances. So we
are on the quest to better understand why this happens, and how it can be
prevented. Another part of our research involves barley. We’re working with Pilot
Malting Australia and ECU’s own brewery to research barley on a commercial scale.
We’re exploring the key proteins expressed during germination plus those
that give beer it’s flavour. We are also studying Lupin, a superfood with low
content of carbohydrates and fat and considerably high levels of protein,
fiber and other nutrients, which makes this ancient legume a promising raw
material for the food industry. Lupin seeds offer a sustainable and economical
source of protein for the growing global population. So we use mass spectrometry
to test food products for proteins that are either bioactive or anti nutritional.
As an example we’re looking for the presence of unlabelled ingredients such as gluten. This is to confirm that what’s on the
packet is actually what’s in the packet. We’re studying these proteins that
trigger allergy or intolerance because we need to protect consumers and we’re
working closely with industry to translate our science from the bench to
the marketplace.

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