Projects / Programmes source: ARRS

Biochemical and Biophysical-chemical characterization of natural substances

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
4.03.00  Biotechnical sciences  Plant production   
1.04.00  Natural sciences and mathematics  Chemistry   

Code Science Field
B420  Biomedical sciences  Nutrition 

Code Science Field
4.01  Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences  Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries 
1.04  Natural Sciences  Chemical sciences 
plant row material, polyphenols, encapsulation, metabolic products, poliphenolic interactions with biological molecules, structural properties of food, functional food, oleogels, thermostable proteins, archaeolipids, advanced analytical techniques
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Data for the last 5 years (citations for the last 10 years) on March 31, 2023; A3 for period 2017-2021
Data for ARRS tenders ( 04.04.2019 – Programme tender , archive )
Database Linked records Citations Pure citations Average pure citations
WoS  345  7,838  6,977  20.22 
Scopus  354  8,833  7,885  22.27 
Researchers (20)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publications
1.  07028  PhD Helena Abramovič  Plant production  Researcher  2018 - 2023  250 
2.  39095  PhD Miha Bahun  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Researcher  2018 - 2023  32 
3.  15581  PhD Blaž Cigić  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Researcher  2018 - 2023  352 
4.  18132  PhD Barbara Čeh  Biotechnical sciences  Researcher  2018 - 2023  685 
5.  52407  Špela Gruden  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Technician  2022 - 2023 
6.  32607  PhD Katja Istenič  Interdisciplinary research  Researcher  2018  35 
7.  30569  Mirjana Jeremić  Materials science and technology  Technician  2018 
8.  54731  Jan Kejžar  Biotechnology  Junior researcher  2020 - 2023 
9.  34331  PhD Luka Kranjc  Biotechnology  Researcher  2021  30 
10.  38177  PhD Jaka Levanič  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Researcher  2021  22 
11.  34298  PhD Samo Mahnič-Kalamiza  Systems and cybernetics  Researcher  2018  65 
12.  29336  PhD Ilja Gasan Osojnik Črnivec  Chemistry  Researcher  2018 - 2023  217 
13.  15650  PhD Lea Pogačnik  Chemistry  Researcher  2018 - 2023  275 
14.  10873  PhD Nataša Poklar Ulrih  Chemistry  Principal Researcher  2018 - 2023  792 
15.  23417  PhD Iztok Prislan  Chemistry  Researcher  2018 - 2023  194 
16.  15466  PhD Mihaela Skrt  Biotechnology  Researcher  2018 - 2023  149 
17.  08384  PhD Nataša Šegatin  Chemistry  Researcher  2018 - 2023  132 
18.  30763  PhD Marko Šnajder  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Researcher  2018 - 2019  39 
19.  19641  Mateja Vidmar    Technician  2018  16 
20.  25522  PhD Vera Zgonik  Biology  Researcher  2019 - 2020  24 
Organisations (2)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publications
1.  0416  Slovenian Institute of Hop Research and Brewing  Žalec  5051762000  4,055 
2.  0481  University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty  Ljubljana  1626914  64,571 
The food industry is confronted with new challenges, such as the demand for functional foods with health-promoting effects. Phenolic compounds are a group of plant secondary metabolites that have been shown to have many in-vitro effects towards prevention of various diseases. Recent research is oriented towards their stability during food processing, storage and bioavailability. The proposed programme focuses on areas such as: (a) identification of bioactive components from food waste; (b) in-vitro models of digestion simulation of bioactive food compounds; and (c) development of technologies to increase stability, bioavailability and activity of health-promoting compounds. In the processing of plant raw materials, by-products are generated, and so their use will contribute to sustainability. Olive leaves, hop cones (and their pellets and extracts), pomegranate peel, grape seeds, and alien invasive knotweed will be exploited to obtain bioactives that have important roles in maintenance of human health and wellness. The potential benefits of these phenolic compounds are limited by their stability, processing, storage and bioavailability. Encapsulation of such bioactive compounds into different carrier materials will protect them and enhance their application to food matrices (like bread). Liposomes are biocompatible and biodegradable, and new archaeal lipids can form liposomes (archaeosomes) that are stable at high temperatures, low and high pH, and in the presence of phospholipases. Ultra-deformable archaeosomes and archaeosomal hydrogels represent new delivery systems. Plant cell walls provide natural protection for bioactive compounds like proteins, and only the gut bacteria can digest them. Bioavailability of a bioactive compound will be studied with in-vitro models of the gastrointestinal tract. Reducing the amount of fats and adding natural compounds are just some of the trends in the food industry. Saturated fats and trans fats can be replaced with oleogels with the corresponding textural properties. Changing the recipe of a food product can result in shorter shelf-life, loss of flexibility, impaired texture, problems during manufacturing, and changes in product appearance and sensory quality. Dietary fibre is an excellent prebiotics. Beta-glucans have even shown health benefits. Methods for increasing their content represent a great challenge, as only polymers with sufficiently high molecular weight can have these physiological activities. Pernisine is a thermostable protease from A. pernix that can be overexpressed by E. coli and S. rimosus, and it is active at pH from 5-10 and temperatures of 70-100 °C. Patented knowledge will allow us to develop new applications for protein hydrolysates, and for degradation of protein aggregates. Advanced analytical techniques to probe food component interactions, oxidation stability, and viscousity and texture properties will help to prepare more appealing food products.
Significance for science
Food systems are both contributing to and are affected by challenges including climate change, land degradation, and biodiversity loss. Moreover, the food industry is constantly confronted with new challenges imposed by increasing urbanization of the world population and changing lifestyles. For some time a growing demand for functional foods containing plant extracts with health-promoting effects is in the focus of the research. Particularly phenolic compounds, secondary metabolites of plants, with many in vitro proven effects to prevent various inflammatory and chronic or degenerative processes have been intensively studied for many years. First, many sources of phenolic compounds were exploited for their isolation, identification, and functions determined in vitro. Then the researchers were confronted with the results of epidemiologic studies in which concentrations of phenolic compounds in human organism were found to be very low, why phenolic compounds are toxic at higher concentrations, how stable are they during food processing or in foods, how do they absorb, what is their bioavailability and how do they act in a human organism and their safety. All these are very important facts which have to be known before any recommended daily doses are suggested. The research of our program focuses on areas such as: (a) identification of bioactive components in food processing byproducts; (b) utilization of in vitro models of the gastrointestinal tract to assess metabolism of bioactive food components; (c) development of technologies to increase stability, bioavailability and activity of novel health promoting compounds added to foods so that the resulting functional foods maintain desirable quality and safety. In the proposed program olive leaves, cones and other hop-cone preparations (e.g. pellets, extracts), pomegranate peel and grape seeds, alien invasive knotweed will be exploited. The sources are considered as the most promising plant matrices to obtain natural extracts rich in bioactive compounds having important role in maintaining human health and wellness when included in the everyday human diet. Employing by-products is an innovative approach to improve sustainability. Potential benefits of phenolic compounds are limited by their stability during food processing and storage and bioavailability. Encapsulation of bioactive compounds into different carrier materials protects the core compounds and enhances their application in diverse food matrices. The studies with encapsulated compounds in food matrices (like bread, fresh dough) have been scarce. We propose to try several encapsulating systems like liposomes, archaeosomes with new archaeal lipids form liposomes stable at high temperature, low or high pH and in the presence of phospholipases. Ultra-deformable archaeosomes and archaeosomal hydrogels are new delivery systems. Plant cell wall provides natural protection for bioactive compounds like proteins and only gut bacteria can digest it. Some of them have been already successfully applied by our group in the past. In vitro models of the gastrointestinal tract that mimic metabolic processes are often used to study degradation of food or pharmaceutical product. They are faster, cheaper, less labour-intensive, and without ethical limitations. They typically include phase of digestion in the mouth, stomach and small intestine, and occasionally stage of fermentation in the colon. Lipids, proteins, carbohydrates and water are the major food constituents and are largely responsible for the structural changes accompanying food processing and for mechanical and other physical properties of foods. They form a complex matrix which influences the final characteristics of foods in food systems in which additives have also been shown to play a significant role. Reducing the amount of fats or adding natural compounds to increase antioxidant power are just two of the trends in food industry. But changing the recipe of a food product c
Significance for the country
Slovenian food companies are interested in exploring the possibilities of using encapsulation techniques to improve solubility and bioavailability of bioactive compounds. In the development of new food products, new approaches to monitor the effects of different processing parameters and additives on the quality of the final food product are needed, such as advanced microscopy, calorimetry, rheometry and electrical properties, and these also have to be used in the food industry. In the processing of plant raw materials, huge amounts of by-products are generated. Their potential use is strongly dependent on the conditions under which the raw materials are processed. Sources like oilcakes, hop-cone extracts and pellets, pomegranate peel, grape seeds, and the alien invasive knotweed will be exploited. Using these represents an innovative approach that will lead to sustainability. It is our six-year goal to incorporate bioactive compounds into various carrier systems and food matrices, to enable the formulation of novel food supplements that are appropriate for adults and children. The stability of the encapsulated compounds will be studied under simulated digestion conditions, and the results of the study will lead to further optimisation of the encapsulation systems, and in turn, to the formulation of new functional foods and food supplements. We will look for alternatives to reduce the development of rancidity by adding natural antioxidants, such as natural phenolic compounds, to understand the gluten protein network and to improve quality and diversity of gluten-free products. Products with reduced levels of saturated fatty acids and/or gluten will become more available, with functional alternatives and new technologies. The food industry is trying to remove saturated fats (i.e., hard fats) and trans fats, due to their negative effects on human health. These should be replaced with polyunsaturated fats in vegetable oils with formations as so-called oleogels. The oleogels are formed with the aim being to prepare from the oil (liquid) the product with the corresponding textural properties (e.g., hardness, firmness, plasticity, elasticity) that will be stable through long storage periods. The compounds included in the oleogel are more protected against oxidation, and the oleogel allows their controlled release during or after ingestion. Development of food products with high beta-glucan content and accordingly high added value will stimulate the primary production of barley with high beta-glucan content and the application of milling technologies for the enrichment of flours with beta-glucans. Research into new delivery systems based on archaeosomes represents a good basis for further development of sophisticated archaeosome-based delivery systems for peptides, nanoparticles, DNA and antibodies. Our aim is to further develop these into an effective tool for application to therapies and treatments of different tissues. Our two biggest future challenges are how to increase the delivery efficiency of proteins and plasmid DNA, and how to achieve their selective targeting. The acquired understanding of the researchers will be transmitted not only to students and young research fellows, but also to professionals involved in the development and production of new foods with new functions.
Most important scientific results Interim report
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Interim report
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