Amino acids can be seen as the building blocks of proteins, the proteins in your body that play a major role in almost all biological processes. They give structure to cells, are important for the transport and storage of nutrients, influence the functions of organs and contribute to the repair of tissues such as muscles, skin and bones. But amino acids are also important for your digestion, sleep and energy level.

Project manager
June 2020 to June 2021

“The taste of protein-rich products is partly determined by the building blocks thereof. What do we taste? Ah, those are amino acids! ”

In short: amino acids are important for your body. However, your body itself makes practically no amino acids, which you get by eating enough proteins from different sources.

With this project we want to arrive at a method that makes it possible to chemically characterize a few small proteins – and the amino acids from which they are composed – and to assess them sensory in an effective way. In the long term, the perspective is to be able to isolate valuable components from seaweed, duckweed and residual flows of agricultural crops with added value in terms of flavor. Umami is the fifth flavor (“heartiness”), and was discovered in the early last century by a Japanese researcher in seaweed. Umami is caused by certain forms of amino acids, we want to know more about that.

How do we approach this research?

Students will work on literature research and practical work in the field of isolation of small peptides and loose amino acids (HZ University of Applied Sciences, Vlissingen) and in the field of sensory research (Hogeschool Inholland Delft and Amsterdam). Students tell each other during physical meetings with online sub-meetings what they are doing. Because chemistry is paramount in Vlissingen and the focus at Inholland is more on knowledge about taste and how to research this, the students learn a lot from each other.

What is the importance for education?

Food Commerce & Technology students in Delft and Amsterdam conduct sensory research and supplement their knowledge with chemistry: understanding the relationship between structure and taste of molecules. HZ Chemistry students in Vlissingen take up chemistry and by working together, also with the professional field, the education is up-to-date and mutually enriching (complementary).

How is the professional field involved?

In the context of the protein transition, this is a relevant project with new knowledge and experience that is interesting for the professional field, which is being gained by our young professionals in the making. We have a good relationship with Biorefinery Solutions because they offer sustainable solutions for the food industry from different angles. Alternative protein sources such as duckweed (water lentils) and residual mass from vegetable processing are used by them. Seaweed could also become relevant in the future.

What is the (expected) result?

More knowledge and insight into how amino acids and small proteins provide flavor. Perhaps in the future, with this knowledge, e-numbers can be replaced more easily by natural (instead of synthetic) additives to foods. For example, by extracts of seaweed or duckweed.

The project is subsidized by SIA (Stichting Innovatie Alliantie) as a KIEM_GoChem project.

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