Category Archives: University of Guelph

DNA doesn’t lie: new technology authenticates food ingredients

Steven Newmaster

By Jane Robinson

Guelph – Now that scientists can barcode and catalogue the unique DNA sequence of any living being, they’re putting the technology to the test to authenticate food products.

University of Guelph professor Steven Newmaster is helping food manufacturers verify the products they use don’t contain any adulterated ingredients.

University of Guelph scientists invented DNA barcoding in 2003, starting with animals and plants and identifying more than 60,000 plant species to date. Newmaster, the director of the Natural Health Products (NHP) Research Alliance at Guelph, wondered how the catalogued information could be used by the food and NHP industry.

He began by using the previous barcoding work to create new libraries of DNA information for commercial plant species used in agriculture and food. Now, he’s successfully created a new tool to deal with food fraud – the practice of using lower cost substitute ingredients in the food industry – that will soon be installed by food manufacturers for on-site testing.

“With a shrinking food supply and a population headed to nine billion, there is tremendous pressure on the supply chain, and contamination or substitution of ingredients may become more tempting for some companies,” says Newmaster. Continue reading

New boar genetic screening test can boost litter sizes

Allan King

By Jeanine Moyer

Guelph – A new genetic test offers a boost to swine litter sizes in Canada. The result of more than 25 years of genetic research has led Prof. Allan King to identify a chromosome abnormality in male reproduction, including boars, that results in smaller litter sizes – and develop a genetic screening process to detect the fertility flaw.

“The abnormal chromosome in boars, male pigs, causes lower litter sizes, typically 3-4 fewer piglets per litter,” explains King, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Animal Reproductive Biotechnology at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College. “Those numbers can add up to $100 in lost revenue, on average per litter. We’ve developed a simple blood test that can identify boars with the abnormal chromosome and rule out the problem before any breeding, ensuring average litter sizes at minimum.”

Approximately two per cent of hogs have the abnormal chromosome, and if used in a breeding program, could also pass the genetic makeup onto the offspring as carriers, carrying on the genetic fertility issue.

Farrowing operations and breeders would be most affected by this genetic abnormality, making the screening test a sound investment in their swine genetics and herd performance. Continue reading

New portable sensor detects food allergens in minutes

Suresh Neethirajan

By Jane Robinson

Guelph – An estimated 2.5 million Canadians report an allergy to at least one food, according to Food Allergy Canada. Peanut allergies alone affect the lives of approximately two in every 100 Canadian children.

As the list of food allergens continues to grow, there is a genuine need for a quick and accurate allergen test whether you are scrutinizing every snack for your child, or conducting randomized testing on a food production line. Current allergen testing can take hours, when minutes can make all the difference.

A new technology developed at the University of Guelph successfully shaves valuable hours off accurate testing, and will soon be widely available in Canada.

Prof. Suresh Neethirajan has developed a new test that accurately pinpoints and quantifies the presence of food allergens. Designed to deliver results in a matter of minutes, the test can be used by consumers, restaurants and food manufacturers for on-site testing in a user-friendly format. Continue reading

Peeling back the cancer-fighting potential of Ontario-grown onions

By Jane Robinson

Guelph – There’s a new reason to cry when you peel back the layers on a local Ontario onion in your kitchen…tears of joy, that is.

New research at the University of Guelph has found a way to safely extract the free-radical fighting properties of Ontario-grown onions, creating new opportunities for Ontario farmers and the nutraceutical and food production industries.

In the not-so-distant future, you could be enjoying the healthy properties of onions through supplements, additives and creams.

Scientist have long known that onions carry the highest content of quercetin (an antioxidant flavonoid) of nearly 40 different fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids like quercetin attract and neutralize free radicals – the naturally-occurring molecules in human tissue that can lead to cancerous cells.

Suresh Neethirajan, a bioengineering researcher in the School of Engineering at the University of Guelph, is in the final phase of an Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) funded project examining the varying levels of quercetin in Ontario-grown onions. Continue reading

Dairy cow embryos hold promise for improving human in vitro success

Pavneesh Madan

By Jane Robinson

Guelph – Pavneesh Madan was just about eight years old when he first peered at an embryo under a microscope. That first glimpse began his lifelong focus on fertilized eggs, and particularly the field of early embryonic mortality in dairy cattle.

Madan is an associate professor, veterinarian and researcher at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, and for the past several years he’s been working on ways to identify healthy and unhealthy dairy embryos before they are used in embryo transfer.

“Early embryonic mortality costs dairy farmers a lot of money,” says Madan.

He cites a United Nations survey that put global losses at $1.8 trillion annually for embryonic mortality in beef and dairy cattle around the world.

“Maybe we can prevent some of these losses by understanding how the embryo develops, how to recognize a healthy or unhealthy embryo in the first few days of development, and then being able to choose only the good ones,” he says. Continue reading