Feng Ming Chian

PhD student

Thesis title: The effect of processing on muscle microstructure and protein digestibility in vitro

Global meat consumption is growing rapidly and there is an increasing demand for high value animal protein. Understanding the fundamental mechanisms that affect muscle protein digestibility will underpin the rational development of novel muscle-based foods with enhanced nutritional value.  Current research has discovered that meat protein digestibility is affected by different processing techniques and conditions, muscle microstructure and other components of the food matrix. Thus far, studies have shown the impact of some processing techniques on the microstructure of the muscles. However little information is available on how these structural changes in muscles influence protein digestibility. Our research hypothesis is that appropriate combinations of processing can lead to improved digestibility and thus improved nutritional value for muscle-based foods. This raises the central research question of this project: how do different kinds of processing affect muscle structure, and how does this affect digestibility? This will be addressed by the following objectives:

-Determination of the effects of different (traditional and non-traditional) processing techniques, alone or in combination, on molecular and super structural characteristics of myofibrillar-based foods.

-Determination of the effects of different (traditional and non-traditional) processing techniques, alone or in combination, on protein digestive properties of myofibrillar-based foods.

-Investigation of how selective denaturation of muscle proteins affects structural and digestive properties of myofibrillar-based food.

-Study of how digestive juices and proteases diffuse into different muscle microstructures using advanced microscopy techniques.

Affiliated with Massey University and French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA, France)