The technology has already led to 10,000,000-fold improvements in the survival characteristics of certain probiotic strains in the gastrointestinal tract, or enhanced flavour formation and robustness of cheese starter cultures.
The tools have been developed by scientists working within precompetitive networks such as TI food and Nutrition (TIFN) and the Kluyver Centre for Genomics of Industrial Fermentation (KC), and are directly applied for and with industry at NIZO food research.
Delivering on promises
“In a recent review of the KC the panel expressed their confidence in our ability to ‘deliver on the scientific promises, of which some indeed already have been turned into reality’,” said Peter Bron, NIZO expert.
The technology would allow industry to optimize their culture conditions for maximized performance of currently used cultures. According to NIZO, it also paves the way for simple selection of enhanced food bacteria with improved characteristics by high throughput screening of culture collections.
In addition to the potential enhancements to probiotic Lactobacillus survivability in the body, the technology could also be applied to starter cultures for cheese like Lactococcus lactis.
NIZO notes that production, industrial processing and storage, all challenge the ultimate performance of the start culture. One method used to dry start cultures is spray drying, and this exposes the strain to heat and oxidative stress. By applying the gene-trait matching strategy, a specific set of genetic loci could be correlated to both observed stress survival phenotypes, said NIZO.
Moreover, the robustness of the culture can be improved by correlating the whole genome transcriptome data obtained under different fermentative conditions to stress phenotypes.