Proteomics approaches in aquaculture

Proteomics has not played a major role for aquaculture in the past. However, that is likely to change soon. Read more about novel developments to improve food quality and safety as well as production quantity.
Seafood in a laboratory
16 March, 2023
By Bert Popping

Proteomics is the study of proteins in living organisms. It involves the large-scale analysis of proteins, including their structure, expression, interactions, modifications, and functions, in order to better understand biological processes and disease mechanisms. Proteomics typically involves using advanced technologies such as mass spectrometry, protein arrays, often combined with bioinformatics to identify and characterize proteins and their interactions in complex biological systems. Proteomics can provide important insights into the molecular basis of disease, drug development. In addition, newer applications also look into product quality improvements by using the data derived from proteomics studies. In aquaculture, proteomics studies to investigate fish health and pathogens, to improve food security have been conducted. An overview over current proteomics developments in aquaculture have been described by Pedro Rodriguez and colleagues.

However, this was more university research. Now, some of this research has been applied: MariHealth Solutions, a spin-out from the University of Cape Town, has developed a tool to measure protein levels in farmed animals over time, allowing farmers to establish whether and why their animals are experiencing chronic stress and providing a granular assessment of the impact different feed formulations have on key factors such as metabolism and health status. The technology uses proteomics to assess the stress and metabolic status of farmed abalone and is being extended to include fish and shrimp. By collecting blood samples from individual animals, which are then analysed by tandem mass spectrometry, the tool assesses the metabolic and stress status of the animals. MariHealth Solutions’ technique enables early detection of changes in metabolic and immune system protein levels, allowing farmers to identify the key factors that may be affecting the animals and make necessary amendments to their procedures. Feed companies have expressed their interest in the technology, stating that it could allow them to measure the impact that small changes in feed formulation may have on the metabolic processes of an animal.

And here, again, workers in the industry need to be trained to work with such systems and understand the outputs they deliver. This is where the EIT Food-funded AGAPE project aims to make a difference by providing AI-driven recommendations for upskilling and reskilling to adapt the workforce’s skills to the aquaculture industry’s changing needs.

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