Molecular Phenomics projects

Find out about projects the Molecular Phenomics Platform has been working on


Advancing our understanding of coffee foams

Lead researchers: Dr Tristan Dew, Dr Jo Gould

One of the most important parts of the drinking coffee experience is the crema, or coffee foam. This velvety, aromatic foam differs between different types of coffee. However, the physio-chemical mechanisms underpinning foam formation are not fully explained.

This project uses analytical techniques from physical chemistry and metabolomics to identify the key chemical differences of coffee foams. This will allow manufacturers to select for the better retention of natural coffee-derived foaming agents through the production process, helping to deliver tasty, foamy coffee to consumers.

This project is funded by Jacobs Douwe Egberts


Investigating biomarkers of fruit and vegetable intake in humans

Lead researchers: Dr Tristan Dew, Dr Orla Flannery (MMU)

Fruit and vegetable intake has long been associated with a reduced risk of chronic non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer. However, commonly employed self-report methods to assess such intake can be confounded by bias, memory, and dietary variation. This project aims to elucidate and assess objective biomarkers of fruit and vegetable intake, through predictive modelling and controlled human intervention trials combined with metabolomic urinalysis.

This project is funded by a Manchester Metropolitan University Vice Chancellors Scholarship and Future Food


Wild edible fruits (WEF) in eastern Africa

Lead researcher: Dr. Diriba Kumssa

The diet of rural Ethiopian populations is dominated by locally produced staple-cereals, largely because of under-developed food production, storage, and transportation networks. These populations typically live close to forests and woodlands that are a source of a wide range of wild edible fruits. However, as little is known about the nutritional value of these fruits, they are commonly stigmatised as a food of last resort. In this project, the Molecular Phenomics Platform is developing a wide range of micronutrient assays, and well as employing polyphenolic profiling and bulk proximate analysis, to establish the nutritional profile of at least 45 wild edible fruit species.

This project is funded by Leverhulme Trust.


Metabolic differences between Arabidopsis thaliana mutants

Lead researcher: Dr Gabriel Castrillo

As part of wider work on how the microbiome influences plant absorption of mineral nutrients and trace elements from the soil, the Molecular Phenomics Platform developed a simplified profiling methodology, isolating >50k features of Arabidopsis thaliana mutants, with genotype, bacterial treatment and their interaction explaining 48% of total metabolome variance.

This project is funded by a Nottingham Research Fellowship and the Future Food Beacon.


Metabolomics to improve Brewing practices

Lead researchers: Prof. David Cook, Dr. Chris Powel

We have applied a metabolomics workflow, alongside both reverse phase and HILIC separation modes to address a variety of different technical challenges within modern large-scale brewing. This includes the identification of flavour compounds in lagers associated with brewing adjuncts, profiling of hop extracts, and the identification and relative quantitation of compounds associated with stress response in several strains of brewers yeast.

These projects were funded by various commercial entities.


Cocoa fermentation and flavour

Lead researchers: Prof David Salt, Dr David Gopualchan, Prof Pathmanathan Umaharan (CRC)

The fermentation of cocoa beans is essential to flavour development, with major changes to the protein and polyphenol content driving the production of colours and flavour precursors that are fully realised upon roasting. The Molecular Phenomics Platform has developed methods to follow the fate of a range of polyphenols relevant to cocoa beans and chocolate, as well as tailoring untargeted workflows to working with these sample types.

This project is in partnership with the Cocoa Research Centre (CRC), University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago, and is funded by both BBSRC and the Future Food Beacon.




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