Our research interest is generally using advanced food science and technologies to enhance the food nutrition, safety, and quality. To be successful, we will use or develop a variety of food and chemistry techniques to understand their potential fundamentals, design, and applications, including the experimental techniques (such as food nanotechnologies, emulsion technologies, and INFOGEST in vitro digestion model) and computing techniques (such as quantum chemistry, molecular modeling and dynamics, and data analysis). We are also expecting many potential collaborations with other research groups and companies, and together advance the development of next-generation food systems. The ongoing projects are mainly focusing on 1) how to effectively encapsulate, protect, and deliver bioactive agents (such as vitamins, $\beta$-carotene, and polyphenols), and 2) revealing physicochemical fundamentals in creating sustainable foods with desirable attributes (such as appearances, texture profiles, and nutrition).
Increasing the loading/encapsulating efficiency, gastrointestinal stability, and oral bioavailability of lipophilic bioactives
Background: Many beneficial lipophilic bioactives (such as vitamins and polyphenols) have low bioavailability, because of their poor solubility and chemical stability within the human gut. Although using advanced nanocarriers (e.g., nanoemulsions) can improve their solubility and stability, there is still a need on how we can effectively encapsulate, protect, and deliver them orally.
Funding: This project is currently a main ongoing project, and we are expecting it has more funding supports in the future.
The creation of plant-based foods and their gastrointestinal fate
Background: The plant-based (PB) food, as one of the next-generation foods, have been increasingly adopted by consumers because they are more sustainable, environment-friendly, and have less ethical concerns. However, these PB foods could have different properties from these real animal-based foods, such as the nutritions, taste, and texture profiles. We are using food emulsion technologies to help the development of PB foods.
Funding: This project was funded by the Good Food Institute (2020) and partly by the Massachusetts Agricultural Experiment Station (MAS00559) and USDA, AFRI (2020-03921) grants.. Hualu is working as a postdoctoral researcher at University of Massachusetts Amherst.
The gastrointestinal fate of organic and inorganic nanoparticles in foods: impacts on lipid digestion and nutraceutical bioavailability
Background: Inorganic or organic nanoparticles are often incorporated into foods to enhance their quality, stability, nutrition, or safety. When they pass through the gastrointestinal environment, the properties of these nanoparticles are altered, which impacts their biological effects and potential toxicity. Consequently, there is a need to understand how different kinds of nanoparticles behave within the gastrointestinal tract.
Funding: This project was funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Massachusetts Agricultural Experiment Station (MAS00491, 2017-2020), and the Chinese Scholarship Council for financial support (2017-2020). Hualu also completed her Ph.D. graduate program and awarded a Ph.D. degree in the Food Science at University of Massachusetts Amherst, owing to her excellent academic performance.
Relationship between properties of inorganic nanoparticles and their autophagic effects
Background: Many inorganic nanoparticles (INPs) have recently been synthesized and used in the biological research area. It has showed that they likely induce the autophagic effects and thus lead to a dysfunction of our cellular system, due to their unqiue physicochemical properties. However, it is still unclear whether these properties (such as size, morphology, surface modification and dispersity) can significantly induce the autophagic effects.
Funding: This project was funded by the National Key Basic Research Program of China (2013CB933901, 2014-2018). Hualu also completed her master graduate program and research thesis. She was thus awarded a master degree in the chemical biology at Xiamen University, due to her excellent performance.