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WNMRC — Result In Brief

Project ID: 26164
Country: Netherlands

Scanning and probing for the ultimate molecules

High-tech analysis equipment at the University of Wageningen is helping European scientists to stay ahead in agricultural research.
Scanning and probing for the ultimate molecules
The latest imaging and molecular analysis techniques are based on nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and are uncovering the mechanics of life systems down to the level of the electron. The 'Research Infrastructure Wageningen NMR Centre: NMR in agriculture, food and biology' (WNMRC) project aimed to elucidate many fundamental properties of molecular biology that remain a mystery, phloem flow in plants, for example.

Throughout the term of the EU-funded project, the University of Wageningen NMR department continued to make landmark progress in plant and animal agro-research. Applications include ecosystems, nutraceuticals and new functional compounds for medicine. Research into disturbed metabolic pathways in cows using NMR blood analysis identified biomarkers for steatotic liver disease, common in high-yielding dairy cattle.

Major advances in imaging and analysis techniques, particularly regarding non-destructive techniques have been the key to success. For example, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) flow imaging has been used as a reference for flow measurements in a new non-invasive heat pulse method. Applied to the castor oil plant Ricinus, water management in trees in a global warming situation can be investigated.

Analysis of plant extracts has been extremely fruitful in providing information on metabolites with medicinal use. For example, liquid chromatography- nuclear magnetic resonance-mass spectrometry (LC-NMR-MS) has identified metabolic profiles of extracts of five rice samples. Combined with the appropriate genetic profiles, this has yielded a better understanding of flavonoid pathway regulation.

Research indicates that flavonoids, as a constituent of the human diet, have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer activities. Green tea also came under the microscope and a new pathway for health-protecting chemicals has been proposed on the basis of NMR findings.

hypersensitive analysis techniques can also identify new unknown functional compounds present in so far undetectable concentrations such as neo-clerodane diterpenes. Applications of these compounds range from insect antifeedants, to hepatotoxic, cytotoxic and anti-inflammatory pharmaceuticals.

acquisition of a portable NMR has enabled intact plant research, of significant use on static trees gathering information on biomass, phloem flow, carbon dioxide (CO2) assimilation and bio-fuel production. Root systems, exudations and nutrient uptake can also be studied in situ.

research in agriculture, natural pharmaceuticals and environmental sciences, in line with use of advanced analytical equipment, is anticipated to rise. Infrastructure at the University of Wageningen including a new electron spin resonator (ESR), related software and databases will help to cope with this demand.

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