Changing the properties of mucus to aid nutritional uptake
Lipase is an enzyme that the body uses to break down fats in food so they can be absorbed in the intestines. As a result of digestion by lipases, in the small intestine, lipid droplets from our food slowly release a complex array of self-assembled structures (coloured red) as shown in the top image. This range of particle types and sizes must diffuse through the mucus barrier if they are to be absorbed by the body.
In the bottom image, of a mouse small intestine, you can see the mucus layer (coloured green) in the environment that the lipid products must diffuse through in order to reach the gut wall where they can be absorbed. Cell nuclei are labelled blue and the mucus secreting goblet cells are seen secreting mucus into the space between the villi.
Dr Alan Mackie, from the Institute of Food Research, the only publicly funded UK research institute that focuses on the underlying science of food and health, studies what food structures and food component can be used to change the properties of the intestinal mucus. Understanding this process could allow us to control and modify nutritional uptake by manipulating the food structures and therefore their uptake through the mucus layer.
This research will be used to help design foods that can release their nutrients more slowly, which is helpful in the fight against the onset of type 2 diabetes and can also decrease appetite and may thus be used to combat obesity.
Credit: Dr Balazs Bajka
Read more: http://www.ifr.ac.uk/research/scientists/alan-mackie/
Read more on research from the Institute of Food Research :http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/health/2014/140915-pr-botulisms-genetic-triggers-found.aspx