What if, at the press of a button, you could have food generated for you that is customized for your genetic code and up-to-the-minute nutritional needs? With that in mind, Dr. Amy Logan, a team leader for dairy science at The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), has just launched a three-year study into the personalized fabrication of smart food systems.
As News.com.au reports, Dr. Logan has delivered a presentation on how personalized nutrition will converge with 3D printing so that custom food will be generated based on measurements of physiological markers through biosensors. Think of how sensors on a car warn us when, say, tire pressure is low. In Dr. Logan’s eyes, biosensor-based measurements can then trigger the automatic generation of nutritionally optimized food.
According to a mission statement for Dr. Logan’s study:
“Our scientists and engineers at CSIRO are working towards this future where food, nutraceuticals and other products will be personalized based on an individual’s genetic makeup, and a reality where optimum well-being for each person is a reality. We are building the underpinning science required to: Develop a personalized and instant food processor, providing the smart, structured soft materials (food and cosmetics) on demand and personalized for you on the day, incorporating sensor technologies that measure food – body and cosmetic – body interactions coupled with personalized genomics and phenotype (lifestyle) data.”
Dr. Logan’s study has participation from CSIRO’s Agriculture and Food and Manufacturing divisions, and it will go beyond focusing solely on conceptual advancements. The idea is to move toward instant ways to precisely detect what an individual’s body needs and instant ways to fabricate customized food to meet those needs.
Logan’s research team will focus on instantly available diagnostics and how 3D printing or similar technologies can fabricate genetically targeted food to correct deficiencies. The diagnostics may leverage, of all things, human sweat. At the Inside 3D Printing Conference, Logan said: “The vision we have is that in 20 years time, someone would wake up in the morning [and] their physiological markers will have already been measured in a really unintrusive way, potentially through their sweat while they’ve been sleeping using biosensor technology.”
CSIRO’s “The DNA Diet” site explores these ideas further. The goal is not just to optimize nutrition for performance-oriented reasons, but to essentially hack the body to defy disease. “DNA damage is the most fundamental cause of developmental and degenerative disease and accelerated aging,” The DNA Diet report notes. “Pioneering CSIRO research has demonstrated that damage to the bodies DNA is a fundamental disease that can be diagnosed and partially reversed. A team of CSIRO scientists identified nine micronutrients that are significantly associated with DNA damage. The group also showed that supplementation with certain micronutrients can reduce DNA damage.”
Through work headed up by Dr. Michael Fenech, CSIRO has already developed a technique for measuring DNA damage that can serve as a model for Dr. Logan’s team to take further. According to The DNA Diet: “Reach 100 [is] a medical clinic offering diagnostic blood tests that measure DNA damage and information relating to the nutritional, life-style and environmental factors that influence it. The team at Reach100 checks the levels of important micronutrients in the patient’s blood, including red cell folate, serum folate and Vitamin B12, which are all essential for the body’s ability to replicate healthy DNA. Reach100 doctors then make recommendations about the health of the patient’s DNA, based on the results of these tests.”
Is it wildly exotic to think that in the future 3D printers might fabricate our food? Actually, many such concepts have been shown at the 3D Food Printing Conference in Venlo, the Netherlands. Chefs have created five-course 3D-printed meals, and scientists have created 3D-printed beef. The object of Dr. Logan’s research, though, is to improve health outcomes through the instant fabrication of genetically targeted food.
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