SOURCE: B.R.A.I.N. - Biotechnology Research And Information Network AG

B.R.A.I.N. - Biotechnology Research And Information Network AG

April 26, 2012 10:00 ET

Technology Breakthrough at BRAIN AG: Refined Understanding of Human Taste and Taste Modulation

Immortalized Human Taste Cell Lines Provide New Insights Into Taste Reception and Help Improve Nutraceutical Development

ZWINGENBERG, GERMANY--(Marketwire - Apr 26, 2012) - The biotechnology corporation BRAIN AG ( discloses a breakthrough in human cell-based assay technology to identify and develop novel taste modulators and nutraceuticals. For the first time, researchers at BRAIN succeeded in establishing immortalized primary human taste cell lines derived from taste papillae of the human tongue. Human taste cell lines will allow researchers to investigate natural responses of taste cells to taste molecules and to launch novel development programs to identify taste and satiety modulators.

For the first time in history, chronic non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes pose a greater, global health burden to modern societies than do infectious diseases. According to a study of the United Nations published in September 2011, they contribute to more than 35 million deaths per year. Countries, which have adopted the Western diet dominated by affordable convenience meals and other processed food products, report increasing problems with obesity and related issues. World-wide, there are approximately 30% more people who are obese than who are undernourished. It is also reported that up to 40% of normal-weight people develop the diseases that constitute the metabolic syndrome: diabetes, hypertension, lipid problems, cardiovascular disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Obesity is not always the cause; rather, it is a marker for malnutrition and metabolic dysfunction.

Changing nutritional habits is difficult and consumer preferences for products and brands are firmly established. As a consequence, BRAIN decided to use molecular biology technologies to develop novel taste modulators and nutraceuticals from natural resources.

Conventional, recombinant screening technologies led to the discovery of taste modulators but also revealed drawbacks. Ideally, human taste cells should be used to emulate the complexity of human taste response to taste modulators in a most natural way. However, human taste cells are short-lived and don't proliferate and thus escaped approaches to establish homogenous taste cell lines with defined properties, a prerequisite to establishing comprehensive research and screening programs. Research efforts at BRAIN are now bearing fruit and bring screening technology a significant step closer to this ideal.

"We used biopsy samples from human lingual epithelium containing taste buds from fungiform, foliate and circumvallate papillae to generate human taste cell lines," states Dr. Andreas Hochheimer, who is heading this research and technology development program at BRAIN. "We obtained several immortalized human taste cell lines suitable for investigating endogenous gustatory responses of human taste cells as well as for launching screening programs to identify taste modulators in a high-throughput fashion. These cell lines share many features with taste cells from other model organisms that have been studied in the past but also provide valuable new insights into human taste reception and signal transduction mechanisms."

"We expect that this next-generation ScreenLine-technology will synergize with our previously established recombinant screening technologies and will provide additional leverage to identify and develop novel nutraceuticals for mass consumer markets more efficiently," adds Dr. Michael Krohn, Head of the BioActives Business Unit at BRAIN.

"For BRAIN this technological breakthrough is an important milestone within our corporate strategy to enlarge the BRAIN Technology Platform," says Dr. Holger Zinke, CEO of BRAIN. "Obviously, we will use our first-mover-advantage in this important business segment and we will share the technological leadership with our strategic collaboration partners or provide the technology on a licence basis. This groundbreaking ScreenLine technology is covered by international patent applications."

BRAIN will present the latest scientific discoveries with this new technology at the annual meeting of the Association for Chemoreception Sciences (AChemS;, an international association that advances understanding of the senses of taste and smell, in Huntington Beach, USA on April 27, 2012.

BRAIN AG is an industrial "white" biotech company which discovers and develops novel bioactive natural compounds and proprietary enzymes for its partners and customers in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, as well as the food and cosmetics industries. With its unique approach to the discovery and production of new biological compounds and biocatalysts, the company achieves creative solutions by harnessing nature's untapped biodiversity. Its success is built on its proprietary BioArchive comprising millions of genes, proteins and metabolic pathways from microbial isolates and metagenome libraries. Since its foundation in 1993, BRAIN has entered into over 80 strategic collaborations with nearly all the relevant companies within the chemical industry as e.g. BASF, Ciba, Clariant, Evonik Degussa, DSM, Genencor, Henkel, Nutrinova, RWE, Sandoz, Schering, Südzucker and Symrise, to name but a few. Currently, BRAIN employs 102 highly skilled people.

For their groundbreaking industrial biotechnology activities for a sustainable "biologisation of the chemical industry" using nature's toolbox for industrial processes, BRAIN with its CEO Dr. Holger Zinke received the "Deutschen Umweltpreis 2008" of the "Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt," DBU.

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