Research

Current Research Projects

Key Research Foci

Bioactives
1hIntegrated research in metabolomics, genomics, biochemistry, phytochemistry, pharmacogenomics, breeding and epigenetics are aimed at development and promotion of fruits, vegetables and other edible plant material with enhanced health benefits, and introduction of new or underappreciated crops and products from various sites throughout the globe, allowing consumers to make proactive, responsible dietary choices that benefit their own, and their families’ health. Learn more…

 

Bioexploration
gibexlogoA 2016 BLAST Grant (NIH through UA Fairbanks) “Exploring Traditional Ecological Knowledge on the Yukon River” explores the phytoactive properties of indigenous plants routinely used by Native communities in the great state of Alaska. The Global Institute for BioExploration (GIBEX) is a global research and development network that promotes ethical, natural product-based pharmacological bioexploration to benefit human health and the environment in developing countries. GIBEX’s ‘Reversing the Flow’ paradigm is intended to bring field-deployable pharmacological screens into developing countries, while leaving all valuable natural resources in the place of origin. Learn more…

Federal, Foundation and Internally-Funded Projects

> Closing the Gap in Delivery of Fruit & Vegetable Benefits.  Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research.  Challenge Area:  Making ‘My Plate’ Your Plate. $2,005,846 (1 July 2017-30 June 2021).  Our overall goal is to develop strategies that close the gap between present consumption levels and the health benefits of fruits and vegetables through improvement of nutritional quality and delivery.  The Central Hypothesis is that expansion of strategies to include identification of genetic factors that influence bioavailability of micronutrients and phytoactives can be synergized with emerging food production technologies to deliver more nutrition and health benefits within current consumer lifestyle and dietary habits.  Translation of these strategies can bridge the gap between production and consumption through generation of more effective consumer produce and products.

Allergenicity

  • Retraining the Immune System: Mitigating Allergic Responses using Hypoallergenic Peanut Protein-Polyphenol Aggregates.  Funded by USDA  Learn more…
  • Development and Analysis of Hypoallergenic Polyphenol-Edible Protein Matrices using Translational Models
  • Protein-polyphenol Particles for Intervention in Egg Allergy in Brown Norway Rat Model

Berries and Bone
The overall goal of this project is to determine whether Vaccinium berry extracts rich in polyphenolics can improve bone health, especially in post-menopausal women. Objectives are to 1) study the mechanisms by which berry polyphenolic metabolites increase bone formation and suppress bone resorption, specifically the molecular signaling pathways that involve Nrf2 and NFκB; and 2) ascertain that effects found in animal models will translate clinically to humans. Funded by: NIH NCCIH  Learn more…

Food Matrix Functionality
Whey proteins are complexed with polyphenols in a green chemistry approach to create meso-scale chimeric particles that can dramatically enhance the physical structure functionality of food products. The complexation process is used to steer protein aggregation to produce functionally inert particles (ingredients), resulting in improved foaming characteristics and creep recovery. These particles, when incorporated into a food matrix (e.g. protein bars), effectively extend the availability/digestibility of health-protective polyphenols and proteins in foods as well as the shelf life and optimal texture. Funded by: NASA Human Research Program

Genomics and Metabolomics

  • Functional Genomics and Functional Phenotyping of Blueberry Fruits: The main goals of this project are: i) to generate blueberry genomic resources to facilitate completion of the blueberry genome assembly and to construct genetic maps to assist molecular breeding; ii) to use systems level approaches to study blueberry fruit development; iii) to study biofunctions of blueberry phytochemical profiles using a comprehensive suite of phytochemical analyses and in vitro assays; and iv) to develop and distribute news releases and educational materials, including community outreach and educational programs with local schools, to advocate wider public understanding of how research conducted at PHHI impacts human health.
  • Black Raspberry: Investigating a Unique North Carolina Fruit from Genomics to Human Health: The overarching goal of this project is to develop a genomic profile that can be used to identify genes responsible for high level bioactive compound production in black raspberry, and to explore the anti inflammatory attributes of this selection. Transdisciplinary collaborations to link the multiple attributes of black raspberry will be forged to develop a systematic and vertical approach to produce and utilize black raspberry as a widely recognized and viable anti-inflammatory functional fruit.Print
  • Plant Pathways Elucidation Project (P2EP): Elucidation of the genomic and metabolomic strategies and pathways taken by plants to synthesize and accumulate phytoactive compounds.  P2EP is a unique public-private partnership that links industry and academic principal investigators, PhD candidates, and undergraduate scholars in transdisciplinary investigative teams, and intensive summer internship programs. Funded by: UNC GA, Duke Energy Foundation, Dole Nutrition Institute, General Mills, and more.   Learn more…

Industry Funded Projects

  • Determining the Fate of Key Fruit Phytoactive Compounds in Human Fluids: A Cross-Comparison Pre- and Post-Ingestion using LC MS and NMR Platforms for Metabolite Profiling (DOLE Nutrition Institute)
  • Comparative Flavonoid Content in Blueberries and Strawberries (General Mills)
  • Polyphenol Content in Sportz Supplement (Reoxcyn)

Recently Completed Research Projects

Seaweed
Six species of coastal Alaskan seaweed (Alaria marginata, Fucus distichus, Pyropia fallax, Saccharina groenlandica, Saccharina latissima, and Ulva lactuca) were evaluated in multiple in vitro assay systems for their potential to attenuate diabetes and obesity, and the underlying phytochemistry that might play a role in the observed bioactivity was investigated. Learn more…

Malaria
Working with the Gates Foundation’s Medicines for Malaria Venture, the Lilalab worked in conjunction with Rutgers University as well as the University of Cape Town in order to uncover new candidates in the fight against malaria. Learn more…

AK/ND Education
In this project, awarded from the USDA Higher Education Challenge (HEC), the Lilalab collaborates with education experts at North Carolina State University, Rutgers University, the University of Alaska Anchorage, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and United Tribes Technical College in North Dakota to develop a lab/lecture curriculum based upon hands-on  investigation and bioassays of indigenous/endemic plants of historic importance to the Traditional Ecological Knowledge.  Learn more…

Zambia BMGF
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Nutrasorb-Zambia Project developed and validated an innovative, portable and highly stable protein-rich food source (fortified with bioactive fruit constituents and comprised of locally-available produce) to enable year-round healthy growth and development of undernourished mothers and children in Zambia and to establish the scientific foundations, network, and infrastructure to support subsequent technology transfer to facilitate sustainable regional implementation of the program in partnership with universities, entrepreneurs and government in Zambia. Learn more…