Current R&D/S&T Activities
Providing safe, contamination free, unadulterated food to all is the motto of the institutes Food Toxicology Division. Food is the main source of energy and nutrition for living organism and is usually of plant or animal origin. Sometimes adverse reaction to food occurs in body that includes food allergy and food intolerance. Food allergy is hypersensitivity to dietary substances leading to various disorders, including anaphylactic shock in severe cases. Studies show that true food allergies are present in only 1-2 of adults and 6-8 in children. Most common foods that cause allergic reactions are milk, egg, peanut, soybean, crustacean, fish and wheat. Many crops are being genetically modified using biotechnological tools for introduction of pest resistance, herbicide tolerance or improving nutritional quality etc. Some genetically modified (GM) crops like Brinjal, Chickpea, Cabbage, Ground nut, Pea, Maize, Pigeon pea, Potato, Rice, Sorghum and Tomato etc. are under development and field trial stages in India. Random insertion of novel gene in the host crop genome may sometime result in over expression of previously silent gene/ product. Therefore, allergenicity/ safety evaluation of GM crops is needed prior to its release in marketplace. With the development of GM crop plants there has been a growing interest in the approaches available to assess the potential allergenicity of novel genes/ products. WHO/ Codex proposed guidelines for allergenicity evaluation of GM crops include: (i) Amino acid sequence homology (ii) Simulated gastric Fluid (SGF) assay (iii) Specific/ target serum screening etc.
In Food Toxicology lab, our group is working on the safety and allergenicity assessment of Genetically Modified crops. The studies include both in silico and experimental approaches. Sequence homology studies are going on to find-out similarities in primary structure (amino acid sequence) of the transgenic protein with the sequence of allergenic proteins to predict its allergenicity/ antigenicity using bioinformatics approaches. We are also trying to work on common allergenic motif (if any) present among different allergic proteins of various foods.
Studies are going on in the field of detection, quantification and risk assessment of Mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are toxins produced by fungus under special conditions of moisture and temperature. Aflatoxin, Patulin, Ochratoxins, Fumonisins and Trichothecnes are most common mycotoxins contaminating food. In our laboratory toxicity of aflatoxin B1, its mitigation by herbal products along with its carcinogenic potential has been studied. Work on improving present and developing new protein and DNA based method for mycotoxin analysis is under progress. Patulin, a mycotoxin found in juice of several fruits, is presently being investigated for its presence in different fresh and packed fruit juice available in India. Attempts are being made to develop protein based and improving LC based methods for different mycotoxins.