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University of Minnesota research leads to new technology to protect human health
Date:7/21/2009

Biological Sciences.

"Larry Wackett's research has revealed the power of microbial enzymes to modify and destroy toxic substances in the environment," says Joe Krebs, director of Protein Chemistry and Engineering at Bioo Scientific. "Our new enzymatic detection method takes this work in a new direction to provide a better approach for the detection of melamine contamination in the global food supply."

Research to develop the enzyme for the melamine test was supported by the University's Biocatalysis Initiative.

"This is an example of how a small but strategic investment in scientific research can make a big difference," says Robert P. Elde, dean of the College of Biological Sciences and interim director of the Biotechnology Institute.

Melamine was originally used to make durable plastic for dishes and countertops. It is also a widely used additive to cement. But in recent years it has been misused as a food additive because it contains a large amount of nitrogen (a nutrient), is cheap, and is falsely recognized as protein by the most common chemical assay used to test for food protein. This has led to a practice of adding melamine to any food where its value is enhanced by increasing the apparent protein content. For example, melamine-tainted pet food killed nearly 1,000 U.S. pets during one episode in 2007.


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Contact: Patty Mattern
mattern@umn.edu
612-624-2801
University of Minnesota
Source:Eurekalert

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