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SRLs

Última modificación
Mon , 26/02/2024 - 11:40

The IA2 Steering Committee considered it important to promote research in strategic lines at the European level through the cohesion of researchers from different areas of knowledge. To this end, the creation and support of Strategic Research Lines (SRLs) was set in motion, a decision in line with European and national policies to contribute to promoting scientific and technological leadership in agri-food research. The lines of interest that the institute intends to promote are encompassed in the Social Challenges of H2020, in the specific problems of the Mediterranean area (PRIMA), in the needs of cross-border cooperation (INTERREG) and in all those areas of work within the priorities of the European innovation area.

After a first call in 2018 in which three were selected, three more were added in 2020 thanks to a new call. They have a time horizon of three years. The full list is as follows:

SRL 1: Gastrointestinal microbiota in nutrition and health (funding period already ended)

This SRL aims to initiate a joint and collaborative line of research on the changes that occur in the gastrointestinal microbiota, as well as their influence on the modifications of the immune system and gastrointestinal morphology and functions, as a consequence of the diet ingested or of the different pathologies that affect both humans and animals. The role of the microbiota will be analysed in patients on different diets, as well as in obese individuals. Mouse models of human diseases such as colon cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), prion diseases or the use of antibiotics will be used to study the role of the gastrointestinal microbiota in the pathophysiology of these diseases. The influence of factors as important for animal production as diet, antibiotic use, infections by digestive pathogens (Salmonella, Clostridium, E. coli) or prions on the gastrointestinal microbiota of various production animals (pigs, ruminants, rabbits, fish, etc.) will also be studied. Once the changes that occur in the gastrointestinal microbiota of humans and animals, and that have consequences on the pathophysiology of diseases or on productive performance, are known, new microbiota modifying additives, probiotics and prebiotics will be designed and tested as strategies that contribute to the improvement of human health and animal welfare.

Objectives

The overall objective of the SRL is to collaborate in the study of the gastrointestinal microbiota of humans and domestic animals in order to improve human health and animal welfare.

The specific objectives will be:

- Study of the changes observed in the gastrointestinal microbiota in obese patients or patients subjected to different diets.

- Study of the changes observed in the intestinal microbiota in mouse models of human pathologies such as colon cancer, ALS, prion diseases or antibiotic use.

- Study of the changes observed in the gastrointestinal microbiota in domestic animals fed different diets or antibiotics or suffering from diseases caused by digestive pathogens or prions.

- Study of changes in the immune system and gastrointestinal morphology and function in all of the above situations.

- Study of the effect of various probiotics, prebiotics and additives on the restoration of the gastrointestinal microbiota altered by the factors mentioned above.

SRL Coordinator: Laura Grasa López

SRL 2: Food insect production (funding period already ended)

The research line is designed to open up the possibility of acquiring technology and knowledge that will allow the establishment in the Autonomous Community of Aragon of companies that exploit a new food resource, favouring its qualitative use in animal production and its introduction into the human food chain, and studying its potential diversification in terms of marketable products. Although in principle the line of research is established in the Aragonese community, the potential impact in case of success allows speculating on an extension of the commercialisation to other European countries.

SRL arises from the need for new food sources and efficient waste management. Insect farming with agri-food waste is a possible solution to these two European and global R&D&I challenges. The line is supported both by public R&D&I strategies and by the business/private sector, to which the line can provide a solution to the environmental problem of waste disposal and generate a new business model or opportunity. At the moment, there is a demand for technological supply in this field in Aragon, which can only be offered through the aggregation of researchers from different areas.

The members of the research team cover very different aspects ranging from the breeding and production of insects as potential raw materials, the industrial preparation of the product to optimise its use, its nutritional value as an ingredient in animal or human food, the control of the technical, sanitary and toxicological quality of the product and its inclusion in marketing networks.

Objectives  

- To study the insect rearing and production conditions that favour the profitability of the process, including the use of agricultural and livestock waste to reduce the environmental impact of food production.

- Diversify the products to be obtained in order to maximise the profitability of production, optimising their technological treatment and maintaining quality for their different potential applications.

- Assess products under practical animal production conditions, contemplating both nutritional aspects and interaction with other physiological processes involved in animal production or that favour animal welfare.

- Assess the food safety of the products obtained for animals and humans, controlling and avoiding toxicological and infectious risks.

- Optimise the distribution and marketing chain to maximise the profitability of insect farming to obtain ingredients for the food industry.

SRL Coordinator: Manuel Fondevila Camps

SRL 3: Singular Flavours of Aragon - fruits (SSA) (funding period already ended)

Aragon is the owner of a great genetic heritage of unique fruit varieties adapted to the adverse conditions of our different ecosystems and which are included in the CITA collection. These fruit varieties were, for the most part, displaced by other more productive varieties despite being carriers of unique phenotypic characteristics in terms of resistance, functional ingredient content, stability and/or aroma and flavour. The proposal is based on the hypothesis that those varieties with unique aromatic profiles can be the basis for artisan or semi-industrial products with high added value and with the capacity to dignify the territories to which they are adapted. The aim is to carry out a comprehensive study, from the initial raw material to its placing on the market, analysing alternatives for conservation, transformation and enhancement. Based on the knowledge and analysis of the variability of unique fruit genetic resources, typical perfumery procedures will be applied to isolate, concentrate and chemically characterise the aroma, including the potential and unknown aroma obtained only by processing (enzymatic, thermal) and for the products with the highest potential value, critical technological processes for the maintenance of sensory characteristics will be optimised and their transformation into new products will be addressed to increase accessibility and consumption of phytonutrients (minimal processing to obtain fresh products with short shelf life, and dehydration to generate snacks with long shelf life), which in addition to carrying unique flavours, have functional and healthy characteristics and a potential place in the market.

Objectives

- To select local and newly selected fruit genotypes adapted to mountain areas and carry out a basic evaluation of their fruit quality parameters (acidity, sugar) and nutritive bioactive molecules (nutrients, vitamins, fibre, etc.) as well as non-nutritive photochemicals (phenols, flavonoids, etc.).

- Isolate, concentrate and characterise the aromatic profiles of both the free aroma fraction (fruit odour/flavour) and the precursor fraction, selecting and prototyping those genotypes of greatest potential interest.

- Selection and adaptation of processing technologies to the characteristics of local fruit trees to generate new, more sustainable products with unique aromas and flavours with potential interest for both local and specialised high quality markets and which arouse consumer interest.

SRL Coordinator: Pilar Errea

SRL 4: One Health: a multidisciplinary approach to health research

The One Health approach involves studying animal, human and environmental health as a whole, taking into account that they are interrelated and that progress in knowledge is greatly enhanced by acting on all three factors. Although it is estimated that 60% of emerging diseases have a zoonotic origin, the human-animal relationship in terms of health goes beyond this, and diseases that affect only one species are rare. Animals and humans interrelate in the same environment and suffer from pathologies related to changes in the environment. Both CITA and the University of Zaragoza are committed to the One Health approach as the objective of their research and teaching. IA2, in its Division 2, includes different lines of research whose interrelation is necessary to approach the study of health from a global point of view. This SRL aims to favour this collaboration and integrate other researchers from the University and other centres (San Jorge University) for the development of joint projects within the framework of zoonoses and human model animal diseases, taking into account the environment in which they interact as an important factor in the study of health.

Objectives

The main objective of the SRL is to promote collaboration between the different members for the study of health understood under the One Health perspective. As specific objectives we aim to study:

a) Environmental contamination: Molecular epidemiology of zoonotic pathogens isolated from environmental samples (slurry, sewage, vultures) and study of antibioresistance.

b) Vector-borne diseases: Analysis of the possible involvement of vectors in the spread of ovine anaplasmosis (recently diagnosed in Spain), the effect of the altitudinal gradient between the Ebro Valley and the Pyrenees on dipteran populations (Culicoides spp and Culex spp) as a barrier in the transmission of diseases transmitted by vectors of Bluetongue virus and West Nile virus, both at risk of spreading in this region, and immunological characterisation of these diseases.

c) Zoonoses in companion animals: Development of serological techniques, seroepidemiological and molecular studies and creation of epidemiological maps using BIG DATA.

d) Human animal model diseases: identification of biomarkers, development of in vitro research models and potential therapies for translation to human medicine.

e) Genetic basis of susceptibility to disease: Study of the possible genetic predisposition in the appearance of chronic proliferative rhinitis produced by Salmonella enterica supsp. diarizonae, an upper tract saprophytic agent that causes severe disease in some animals.

SRL Coordinator: Inmaculada Martín Burriel

SRL 5: High-voltage electrical pulses: A tool to improve sustainability in the food and biotech industry

The generation of knowledge and technologies to improve the efficiency and sustainability of processes in the food and biotechnology industry, the creation of new processes based on the use of renewable resources, as well as the use of by-products to obtain bioproducts is one of the main objectives of the European research and innovation strategy FOOD 2030. Pulsed Electric Fields (PEF) is an innovative non-thermal technology with very low energy requirements that can contribute to achieving this objective.

PEFs consist of the intermittent application of high intensity (kV/cm) and very short duration (?s) electric fields that cause the electroporation of the cytoplasmic membrane of microbial cells as well as eukaryotic cells constituent of animal or plant tissues. The main consequence of electroporation is that it allows the exchange of molecules, which are not able to cross the cytoplasmic membrane when it is intact, due to the formation of pores of the order of nanometres in size. The possibility of transient or permanent access to the cytoplasm of cells makes PEF-induced electroporation a very useful tool in various fields such as medicine, biotechnology and agri-food. Currently, the main applications of the technology in the food industry are based on: (i) the inactivation of micro-organisms allowing pasteurisation of thermosensitive liquid foods at lower temperatures than those used in thermal processing; (ii) the improvement of mass transfer in different operations in the industry where the substance to be transferred crosses the cytoplasmic membrane (e.g. extraction of intracellular components of interest, dehydration or infusion of components, etc.); and the modification of the structure of foods at the microscopic level which facilitates different operations such as cutting or peeling. ); and the modification of the food structure at the microscopic level which facilitates various operations such as cutting or peeling. In the biotechnology sector, irreversible electroporation is very useful for extracting intracellular components with different properties (polyphenols, carotenoids, recombinant proteins, enzymes, etc.) produced by microorganisms (bacteria, yeasts, microalgae) or plants. For many years, the lack of equipment capable of applying PEF treatments on an industrial scale prevented the commercial exploitation of the technology. However, there is now equipment on the market that meets the requirements of an industrial process.

Objectives

The peculiar mechanism of action of PEFs allows the development of less aggressive, more efficient, less costly and therefore more sustainable processes than those currently used in the food or biotechnology industry. It is therefore an innovative, environmentally friendly technology that can contribute to the action plan of the European Green Pact and other challenges included in the plans of different research programmes (PRIMA; INTERREF, LIFE+) that aim to promote an efficient use of resources by moving towards a clean and circular economy.

The specific actions to be developed within the strategic line of research to achieve these objectives based on the experience of the participating groups will be:

- Optimisation of food production processes in order to improve yields and reduce energy costs while maintaining or improving the quality of the final product.

- Development of more efficient and less polluting processes for the extraction of components of interest produced by micro-organisms or plants using solvents with better performance and lower environmental impact.

- Development of processes for the use of by-products from the food industry to obtain bioproducts for human and animal food.

- Characterisation of the physico-chemical changes that occur in the treated product with an influence on sensory, nutritional and functional properties.

- Economic and environmental evaluation of the processes developed.

SRL Coordinator: Javier Raso

SRL 6: Wild cycles of vector-borne diseases in a global change scenario

Accelerated environmental changes resulting from human activities and population growth (including alteration of natural environments, pollution, introduction of non-native species, overexploitation of resources, climate change, as well as the introduction of pathogens and their vectors) have an impact on the health of animals, humans and the ecosystems that support them.

One of the groups of infectious agents whose natural cycles are most clearly altered are vector-borne pathogens. Climate change, the invasion of natural habitats and changes in the host community all cause clear variations in the distribution area of ticks and other vectors, increases in the prevalence of the agents they transmit and/or an increase in the probability of jumping between species. The arrival of vector-borne agents such as Crimean-Congo fever virus or Chikungunya virus in the Iberian Peninsula are clear examples.

The level of knowledge in our Autonomous Community in this respect is very limited. However, given the variety of ecosystems in the region, from arid steppes to high mountain ecosystems, it is an ideal area of study to analyse the expansion of these agents in a context of global change. Specifically, Pyrenean ecosystems are clearly affected by the global increase in temperatures, which favours variations in faunal composition and the expansion of ticks and the pathogens they transmit towards higher altitudes.

The scope of this line would be focused, but not limited, to the effect of climate change on the abundance and distribution of tick- and flea-borne pathogens, with special emphasis on Pyrenean ecosystems where some zoonotic diseases, such as Lyme borreliosis, seem to be expanding.

Objectives

1. To begin to collect basic information on the distribution and abundance of vectors in Pyrenean ecosystems.

2. To define the presence of the most important vector-borne infectious agents in the study areas.

3. To gather preliminary information to establish a study model to establish a long-term monitoring system of the effect of climate change on the host-vector-pathogen dynamics.

SRL Coordinator: Javier Millán