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AJ Banks Travel Bursary recipient, Sisir Kumar Barik, reports

Sisir Kumar Barik

16 May 2019

Sisir Kumar Barik was awarded the AJ Banks Travel Bursary and undertook an Erasmus graduate traineeship at the University of Eastern Finland. Here he tells us how the traineeship helped him to understand the fundamentals of liquid-chromatography mass spectrometry through hands-on-experience which will help him develop his career in this analytical technique.

Background of my PhD project

Title: Identification of soft-fruit bioactive compounds that regulate postprandial glycaemia

My Ph.D. project is focused on dietary strategies for alleviating the metabolic complications such as diabetes and obesity, which are pursued as alternatives or supplementary to pharmaceutical interventions. While weight loss is an effective strategy to improve insulin resistance and therefore, preventing the risk of developing Type-2 diabetes, many people find it difficult to achieve and maintain. Thus, the burgeoning problem of Type-2 diabetes still requires effective management e.g. through possible dietary interventions. The overall objectives of the project are to determine the mechanism(s) involved in the metabolic processes to specifically develop a better more effective berry extract or a food supplement that will substantially lower blood glucose when taken with a meal. This will provide the fundamental knowledge required for facilitating improved postprandial glycaemic control and reducing the risk of developing Type-2 diabetes, a major public health concern worldwide.

Objectives for undertaking the Erasmus Traineeship

The key aims of the training was to understand the fundamentals and get a hands-on-experience in LC-MS/MS while identifying the bioactive food metabolites using the analytical technique. The recent traineeship was focussed on metabolomics aspects of the above-mentioned study, where I was trained on Liquid-chromatography mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) for the detection of metabolites form biological samples. LC-MS/MS is a powerful, highly sensitive and precise analytical technique with the development of electrospray ionisation (ESI) providing a simple and robust interface for the detection of residual chemical compounds, confirmatory identification of small organic molecules, and confirmation and quantitation of metabolites in pharmaceutical and food samples.

Methodology

I used the hybrid Orbitrap mass spectrometer from Thermo Fischer, which is ideal for mass spectral analysis for targeted screening and high-throughput analysis of low-level components in complex matrices. Its applications are significant in biopharma, forensic toxicology, clinical and translational research, environmental as well as food testing. We worked with a standard mixture of compounds including some smaller carboxylic acids on a method development protocol followed from Nemkov et.al (1). The work was on a three-minute method development for high-throughput quantitative metabolomics and quantitative tracing experiments of central carbon and nitrogen pathways.’ The column used was from Agilent technologies- Zorbax Eclipse XDB C18 for small molecule separations.

Traineeship outcomes with respect to career prospects and benefit in current research

In this perspective, the traineeship to learn LC-MS/MS with simultaneous identification of bioactive components of the food metabolites helped me to contribute a major segment of information in my PhD studies. Understanding the fundamentals closely through a hands-on-experience helped me familiarise with its complex methodologies and develop my career in this radical analytical technique, while simultaneously advancing the knowledge and innovations in my research field of interest.

Importance of the traineeship with the particular group

Dr. Kati Hanhineva is an experienced researcher in non-targeted metabolomics techniques and is the PI for the Food and Nutritional Metabolomics research group in the Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland. She also leads a company Afekta in Kuopio, Finland, which provides tailored analytical services for the metabolomics needs. Dr. Kati has a strong interest in the characterization of phytochemicals and their dietary importance and is an enthusiastic leader in nutritional metabolomics along with continuously developing new data-analytical approaches. She has published a number of highly cited scientific journals with her expertise and therefore, she is an extremely sought-after supervisor for learning metabolomics techniques. In addition, I was also closely co-supervised by Prof. Seppo Auriola from Biocentre, Kuopio, UEF during the instrument handling and method development. Overall, the metabolomics research group and my training needs falls in the mutual research interests and I have gained a wealth of knowledge under the guidance and vast expertise of both the supervisors on the specific technique.

Acknowledgement

SCI’s grants through various awards have been a benefit for students who belong to economically backward communities and cannot afford travel costs associated with conferences and traineeships etc. I cannot thank enough to SCI for its generous grant through AJ Banks travel award for supporting me in attending this extremely useful and important traineeship of my scientific journey.

Reference

Nemkov, T., Hansen, K. C., and D'Alessandro, A. (2017) A three‐minute method for high‐throughput quantitative metabolomics and quantitative tracing experiments of central carbon and nitrogen pathways. Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom., 31: 663– 673. doi: 10.1002/rcm.7834.

Sisir Kumar Barik
PhD Student
University of Aberdeen

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