A pinboard by
Marco Spaggiari

PhD Student, University of Parma


Nowadays the agro-food chain has to face several challenges resulting, for example, from the outcome of the climate changes. This scenario is also complemented by the growing need to create new value chains in reuse of co-products to maximize incomes and to minimize volumes of unmanageable materials, addressing them to high added value contexts. In the meantime, there is an increasing concern about healthy food among consumers. Moreover, there has been an intense diversification of the food market, with numerous cereal-based food products that has grown 15 times over the last decade. Maize (Zea mays), wheat (Triticum spp.) and rice (Oryza sativa) are the most important crops in worldwide, considered as staple food in many countries. Therefore, great attention is given to the overall characterization of co-products deriving from these cereals. They are mainly composed by the outer fractions of the caryopsis (bran, germ and pericarp), and depending on the grain species and the milling technology, these components result in different composition. Of particular interest is the study of bioactive compounds, such as phenolic compounds, dietary fibres and other micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) which these co-products could provide. On the other hand, the safety aspect is also to be taken into account. In fact, in cereal crops the presence of contaminants, such as mycotoxins, has been recognized. Consequently, in order to increase the value of these co-products, in terms of nutritional quality, several strategies of innovation are implemented. The use of bioprocessing as a pre-treatment, such as fermentation utilizing different types of microorganisms, is observed to be able to enhance the bioavailability of several bioactive compounds related to positive effects on health, and at the same time diminishing other anti-nutrients, i.e. phytates. Nevertheless, no studies regarding the possibility of using the same microorganisms with the aim to degrade mycotoxins, are available so far. In addition, many are the opportunities to develop tailor-made extraction procedures to recovery specific compounds of interests, while isolating other non-desirable components. However, the knowledge regarding the mechanism of action of biologically active compounds is still poor. In this way, last generation approaches as metabolomics sciences jointly with in vitro assays could help to understand better these molecules and their interactions with human organism.


Exploring gut microbes in human health and disease: Pushing the envelope.

Abstract: Humans have coevolved with their microbes over thousands of years, but this relationship, is now being dramatically affected by shifts in the collective human microbiome resulting from changes in the environment and societal norms. Resulting perturbations of intestinal host-microbe interactions can lead to miscues and altered host responses that increase the risk of pathogenic processes and promote "western" disorders such as inflammatory bowel diseases, cancers, obesity, diabetes, autism, and asthma. Given the current challenges and limitations in gene therapy, approaches that can reshape the gut microbiome represent a reasonable strategy for restoring the balance between host and microbes. In this review and commentary, we highlight recent progress in our understanding of the intestinal microbiome in the context of health and diseases, focusing on mechanistic concepts that underlie the complex relationships between host and microbes. Despite these gains, many challenges lie ahead that make it difficult to close the gap between the basic sciences and clinical application. We will discuss the potential therapeutic strategies that can be used to manipulate the gut microbiota, recognizing that the promise of pharmabiotics ("bugs to drugs") is unlikely to be completely fulfilled without a greater understanding of enteric microbiota and its impact on mammalian physiology. By leveraging the knowledge gained through these studies, we will be prepared to enter the era of personalized medicine where clinical inventions can be custom-tailored to individual patients to achieve better outcomes.

Pub.: 03 Feb '15, Pinned: 29 Jun '17

Validation of Metagenomic Next-Generation Sequencing Tests for Universal Pathogen Detection.

Abstract: -Metagenomic sequencing can be used for detection of any pathogens using unbiased, shotgun next-generation sequencing (NGS), without the need for sequence-specific amplification. Proof-of-concept has been demonstrated in infectious disease outbreaks of unknown causes and in patients with suspected infections but negative results for conventional tests. Metagenomic NGS tests hold great promise to improve infectious disease diagnostics, especially in immunocompromised and critically ill patients.-To discuss challenges and provide example solutions for validating metagenomic pathogen detection tests in clinical laboratories. A summary of current regulatory requirements, largely based on prior guidance for NGS testing in constitutional genetics and oncology, is provided.-Examples from 2 separate validation studies are provided for steps from assay design, and validation of wet bench and bioinformatics protocols, to quality control and assurance.-Although laboratory and data analysis workflows are still complex, metagenomic NGS tests for infectious diseases are increasingly being validated in clinical laboratories. Many parallels exist to NGS tests in other fields. Nevertheless, specimen preparation, rapidly evolving data analysis algorithms, and incomplete reference sequence databases are idiosyncratic to the field of microbiology and often overlooked.

Pub.: 09 Feb '17, Pinned: 29 Jun '17

Characterization and Discrimination of Ancient Grains: A Metabolomics Approach.

Abstract: Hulled, or ancient, wheats were the earliest domesticated wheats by mankind and the ancestors of current wheats. Their cultivation drastically decreased during the 1960s; however, the increasing demand for a healthy and equilibrated diet led to rediscovering these grains. Our aim was to use a non-targeted metabolomic approach to discriminate and characterize similarities and differences between ancient Triticum varieties. For this purpose, 77 hulled wheat samples from three different varieties were collected: Garfagnana T. turgidum var. dicoccum L. (emmer), ID331 T. monococcum L. (einkorn) and Rouquin T. spelta L. (spelt). The ultra high performance liquid chromatography coupled to high resolution tandem mass spectrometry (UHPLC-QTOF) metabolomics approach highlighted a pronounced sample clustering according to the wheat variety, with an excellent predictability (Q²), for all the models built. Fifteen metabolites were tentatively identified based on accurate masses, isotopic pattern, and product ion spectra. Among these, alkylresorcinols (ARs) were found to be significantly higher in spelt and emmer, showing different homologue composition. Furthermore, phosphatidylcholines (PC) and lysophosphatidylcholines (lysoPC) levels were higher in einkorn variety. The results obtained in this study confirmed the importance of ARs as markers to distinguish between Triticum species and revealed their values as cultivar markers, being not affected by the environmental influences.

Pub.: 30 Jul '16, Pinned: 29 Jun '17

Cereal-based biorefinery development: utilisation of wheat milling by-products for the production of succinic acid.

Abstract: A novel wheat-based bioprocess for the production of a nutrient-complete feedstock for the fermentative succinic acid production by Actinobacillus succinogenes has been developed. Wheat was fractionated into bran, middlings and flour. The bran fraction, which would normally be a waste product of the wheat milling industry, was used as the sole medium in two solid-state fermentations (SSF) of Aspergillus awamori and Aspergillus oryzae that produce enzyme complexes rich in amylolytic and proteolytic enzymes, respectively. The resulting fermentation solids were then used as crude enzyme sources, by adding directly to an aqueous suspension of milled bran and middlings fractions (wheat flour milling by-products) to generate a hydrolysate containing over 95g/L glucose, 25g/L maltose and 300mg/L free amino nitrogen (FAN). This hydrolysate was then used as the sole medium for A. succinogenes fermentations, which led to the production of 50.6g/L succinic acid. Supplementation of the medium with yeast extract did not significantly improve succinic acid production though increasing the inoculum concentration to 20% did result in the production of 62.1g/L succinic acid. Results indicated that A. succinogenes cells were able to utilise glucose and maltose in the wheat hydrolysate for cell growth and succinic acid production. The proposed process could be potentially integrated into a wheat-milling process to upgrade the wheat flour milling by-products (WFMB) into succinic acid, one of the future platform chemicals of a sustainable chemical industry.

Pub.: 23 Jun '09, Pinned: 29 Jun '17

Durum wheat by-products as natural sources of valuable nutrients

Abstract: This review reports the use of wheat milling by-products for the extraction of high quality oil and vitamin E including our results on the exploitation of durum wheat bran as a valuable source of important healthful compounds. Wheat oil can be used as an ingredient in food, pharmaceutical or cosmetic preparations because it contains important bioactive compounds such as vitamin E, carotenoids and unsaturated fatty acids. Different methods are used for oil recovery from plant materials, such as solvent extraction, mechanical pressing or the eco-friendly supercritical carbon dioxide (SC-CO2) extraction technology. By using SC-CO2, we obtained an oil from durum wheat (Triticum durum Desf.) bran and optimized the extraction conditions to increase oil and vitamin E yields. Wheat bran, which is composed of pericarp, aleurone layer and germ, is discarded during the early stages of durum wheat milling processes to obtain a final product (semolina) that is stable over time. Maximum oil and vitamin E yields were obtained when a durum wheat bran matrix with particle size of ~30 mesh and a moisture content of 2.6 % was used. The optimal conditions for oil extraction were: 300–350 bar, 60–70 °C, and 4 l min−1 gaseous CO2 flow rate for 1 h. The chemical composition (vitamin E forms, carotenoids, quinones, lipids and fatty acids) of the SC-CO2 extracted oil was analyzed and compared to that of the oil extracted by Soxhlet using hexane as solvent. The findings here reported highlight the importance of durum wheat bran as a rich source of valuable natural nutrients.

Pub.: 22 May '12, Pinned: 29 Jun '17