We are currently advertising National Productivity Investment Fund Industrial CASE studentships with a deadline of the 16th July 2018.

02 / 10 / 2017

How do phytosterols reduce serum cholesterol? (WILDE_Q18DTP)

how to apply

Phytosterols and stanols are fat soluble bioactive molecules found in nuts, seeds and grains, and are effective at reducing serum cholesterol, a key risk factor in developing coronary heart disease. Their mechanisms of action is not clear, but it is thought to involve the complex trafficking of these molecules between different lipid structures created in the gut during digestion. The aim of this project is to understand how phytosterols affect the digestion of fat and the transport of cholesterol in the gut, so we can improve the functionality of these vital nutrients. During digestion, lipids are broken down, leading to the formation of different structures as digestion progresses. The form of these structures will depend on dietary composition and individual digestive secretions.

The aim is to use a range of in vitro biochemical and spectroscopic methods to understand how the structure, composition and chemistry of these lipid structures determines the solubility and functionality of different phytosterols and stanols. We will also use advanced NMR spectroscopy methods that are sensitive to short range interactions between molecules in order to probe local interactions and structures. The objective here would be to determine how the environment within the lipid structures is affected by the phytosterols, and how this could change the behaviour of the structures and control absorption and bioavailability.

The student would receive a broad range of training in the biochemistry of digestion, colloid science and a range of NMR spectroscopies across the Norwich Research Park, in the context of human digestion, nutrition and health at the Quadram Institute Bioscience. The knowledge generated could help formulate foods with improved cholesterol lowering properties.