Innovation for measuring fatty acids saves labs time and money

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Two men standing and smiling.
Companies can now say goodbye to tedious food testing processes, thanks to a new innovation from kinesiology postdoctoral fellow Adam Metherel.

Working with Certo Labs Inc., a Toronto-based biotechnology company, Metherel developed a tool for quickly measuring fatty acids and cholesterol content in food and tissue samples. The new tool essentially combines two steps into one, allowing food manufacturers to gather the information necessary for food labels in a fraction of the time.

“Companies need to know the amount of omega-3 or trans fats in their products in order to meet food labelling requirements in Canada. This will provide them with a way of performing analysis more quickly, saving time, but also money,” said Metherel.

Simple concept, big savings

Traditionally, the process for measuring fatty acids involved manually pipetting the samples before running them through a centrifuge to separate the contents.  Metherel’s tool removes the pipetting and centrifuge processes altogether.

Designed around a relatively simple concept, the new tool uses a special filter attached to a syringe to filter fatty acids. Fatty acids and cholesterol selectively pass through the filter, while other contents do not.

The syringe saves researchers and analysts approximately a minute to minute and a half per sample.

“In the eight years since Health Canada made it a requirement to list trans fat content on nutrition labels, there has been a growing interest in speeding the process of fatty acid determination,” said Metherel, who is working under the supervision of kinesiology professor Ken Stark.

 “With this product, we’re speeding up a necessary activity, enabling food manufacturers to save time and money without compromising accuracy.”

Commercialized by Certo labs, the tool is already being used in industrial labs across Canada and in Argentina. Academic researchers are also using the tool to measure the fatty acid content in animal tissue or diets.

In early November, the innovation won Metherel the prestigious Mitacs and National Research Council-Industrial Research Assistance Program Award for Commercialization. The award recognizes an outstanding idea that has been commercialized.

“I am extremely honoured and humbled to have received this award among the many other deserving individuals and excellent research projects within the Mitacs program,” said Metherel.