Brightseed, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to uncover previously hidden phytonutrients in plants, today announced preclinical data from its first major discovery targeting liver and metabolic health.
The discovery was made with Forager, Brightseed’s AI platform that looks at plants on a molecular level to identify novel phytonutrient compounds (for example, antioxidants in blueberries). Once found, Forager then catalogs these compounds and uses that information to predict the health benefits of those compounds.
With today’s announcement, Brightseed’s Forager has identified phytonutrients that can help with fat accumulation in the pancreas and liver, a condition linked to obesity. Brightseed explained its findings in a press release, writing:
Using a computational approach with data from Brightseed’s plant compound library, Forager identified two natural compounds with promising bioactive function, N-trans caffeoyltyramine (NTC) and N-trans-feruloyltyramine (NTF). Researchers determined that these compounds acted through a novel biological mechanism governing the accumulation and clearance of liver fat. The preclinical data was presented in the fall of 2020 as a poster session at The Liver Meeting® Digital Experience hosted by American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, and published as abstract #1679 in Hepatology: Vol 72, No S1.
The release continued:
IIn preclinical studies, NTC and NTF acted as potent HNF4a activators, promoting fat clearance from the steatotic livers of mice fed a high fat diet, by inducing lipophagy. HNF4a is a central metabolic regulator that is impaired by elevated levels of fat in the bloodstream resulting from chronic overeating. Administered in proper doses, NTC and NTF restored proper function of this central metabolic regulator, including maintaining healthy lipid and sugar levels in the bloodstream to normalize organ function. Their activities were confirmed using a cell-based human insulin promoter activation assay. Forager found NTC and NTF in over 80 common edible plant sources.
One of those plant sources, Brightseed Co-Founder and CEO, Jim Flatt told me by phone this week, is black pepper. Now, before you run out and grab your pepper grinder, there is still a lot of work that remains before the results of this discovery bear out.
First, the compounds still need to go through clinical trials to validate Brightseed’s initial findings. This includes not only confirming any health benefits, but also determining the doses and best methods for administering the compounds. Then the best plant source for those compounds needs to be determined as well as the best method for compound extraction. Flatt told me that if all goes well, you can expect to see some form of supplement on the market by the end of 2022.
Even though that is a ways off, part of the reason to be excited by today’s announcement is because of how little time it took Brightseed to make this particular discovery. Through its computational processes, Flatt told me his company was able to shrink what used to take years down to months. “Fifteen to 20 percent of time that is computational saves us 80 percent of the time in the lab,” Flatt said.
Brightseed has already analyzed roughly 700,000 compounds in the plant world for health properties and says it’s on track to surpass 10 million by 2025. Doing so could help unlock a number of previously unknown treatments for a number of ailments and conditions as well as general improvement to our metabolic and immuno health.
In addition to independent research such as today’s findings, Brightseed also partners with major CPG brands to help them identify new applications for their products. For instance, Danone is using Brightseed’s technology to help find new health benefits of soy.
Brightseed’s announcement today also reinforces the bigger role AI will play in our food system. AI and machine learning is being used to do everything from turning data into cheese, to solving complex issues around protein folding.
As more discoveries using AI are made, more investment will be poured into the space, which will accelerate even more discoveries.