What is really in our body? Lukas Hafner of the Bamberg district at the Coburg University of Applied Sciences asked himself this question. As part of his master’s thesis, he wanted to learn how we could differentiate between different types of chicken. “It could be that you buy a piece of meat that has been completely replaced by another. It would also be possible to buy a product that has been partially replaced with a cheaper type of meat,” says bioanalyst Lukas Hafner. Huh. According to the 30-year-old scientist, the method was developed to combat such fraud.
The research project lasted about two years
Lukas Hafner has been researching different types of poultry in the laboratory for more than a year and a half. In the complex method of differentiation in poultry, the proteins in meat are broken down using enzymes into smaller elements, known as peptides. Lukas Hafner explains, “Other laboratories had previously developed ways that, for example, chicken could be separated from pork, but focused on being able to isolate closely related poultry species from one another. has not been done.” This is also one of the difficulties of this method. Markers had to be found that are still able to reliably differentiate between these closely related species, Hofner says.
Mass spectrometer helps in research
After a few days, Lucas Hafner pours peptide solutions from different types of poultry into a mass spectrometer. The instrument measures the mass of the molecules and uses it to determine which molecule is involved. The mass spectrometer is set up in such a way that it detects certain peptides that are found in different types of poultry, explains Lukas Hafner. However, only in one type of poultry. “This means that if we find peptides that are found only in chicken, it is because the sample contains chicken,” says the bioanalyst.
Bavarian Culture Receives Prize for Scientific Method
As part of his master’s thesis, Lukas Hafner found peptides that are contained in different types of poultry and used diagrams to differentiate them. The bioanalyst compares the diagrams of samples on the computer. Depending on the rash, he can see if other types of poultry have been added to the poultry species. This year, Lukas Hafner and the Coburg University of Applied Sciences received the Bavarian Culture Prize in the Science category from the Federal and State Ministry of Culture for this detailed master’s thesis.
Lukas Hafner is doing further research as part of his doctoral thesis
Once approved, the newly developed method could be used in the future by food control authorities to test poultry in trade. Lukas Hafner is now conducting research at the Max Rubner Institute in Kulmbach. There the 30-year-old is writing his doctoral thesis on a new method: with it he wants to be able to differentiate between meat-rich, vegetarian and vegan foods.
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