Iowa State researcher continues search for cause of Alzheimer’s

Dr. Auriel Willette and his team of researchers are continuing their look into how obesity-related problems are linked to metabolism and diabetes.

The outcomes of their latest research, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, point to a new biomarker, insulin-like growth factor binding protein 2 (IGFBP-2), and how it may play a role in a person’s likelihood to develop Alzheimer’s disease. IGFBP-2 helps to regulate energy metabolism by affecting blood glucose levels.

The researchers looked at markers for the protein in both blood and the fluid that surrounds the brain. Regardless of which fluid they looked at, what they determined is the level of the IGFBP-2 biomarker will predict if that individual will have a smaller hippocampus in his or her brain. The smaller the hippocampus, the less able that individual is to process blood sugar and form new memories, which is partly thought to be the cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Willette’s previous research has shown the inability to process blood sugar is very important and may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s.

When IGFBP-2 biomarker levels were higher, this tripled the risk of that individual having some form of mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease.

Willette said while the protein can be looked at in both brain fluid and in blood, a benefit of looking at it in brain fluid is you can additionally predict high levels of toxic proteins thought to cause Alzheimer’s disease.

“One take-home is that while there’s some overlap in what we see from the marker in blood or the brain fluid, there are some important differences about what type of fluid is good for tracking what kind of brain outcome,” Willette said. “It’s much easier to draw blood, and it gives us a window into tracking how the brain changes during the course of Alzheimer’s disease, but to track toxic proteins, you need the fluid that cushions the brain to do that.”

If the higher levels of the biomarker are caused by being overweight, an individual can make lifestyle changes in order to get down to a healthier weight. As weight is lost, studies have shown memory is improved.

“If you can attribute causation to this, you can work to lower the levels,” Willette said. “If you have pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes, it can negatively impact your memory. If you get that under control and you have moderate activity levels, it may improve your memory levels.”

Willette and his researchers will continue tracking the levels longitudinally, watching how they change over time and how well the various parts of the brain process blood sugar.

“Depending on how the levels change, we could track how much that benefits the brain and ultimately our ability to form and retain memories, which is critical in Alzheimer’s disease,” Willette said.

ISU Signature Ice Cream Contest winner announced

AMES, Iowa – During a ceremony Friday, Dec. 8, the winning entry in the ISU Signature Ice Cream Contest was announced in the Friley Windows dining center on the Iowa State University campus.

The winning ice cream concept, called Cyscream, is a rich, peanut butter ice cream, with a fudge cyclone swirl and chocolate-covered rice crisps. It was created by Team PB Crisp, composed of Iowa State University food science students Mikaela Galdonik, Tim Lott, Evan McCoy, and Geena Whalen, all seniors. They were awarded $500 to divide amongst themselves.

In a promotional video created by the team, they explained the flavoring of the ice cream pays homage to influential people and concepts at Iowa State. The peanut butter flavor honors Dr. George Washington Carver, an Iowa State alum who made an impact not only at Iowa State, but also within the peanut industry. The fudge swirl is a nod to the Iowa State Cyclones. The chocolate-covered rice crisps honor Mildred Day, a 1928 home economics graduate who created the Rice Krispie Treat while working for Kellogg’s.

“Creative concept and linked strongly to ISU history and tradition,” stated one of the eight judges who evaluated the contest entries. The team also was praised by another judge for their food science sense: “enrobing the crisp rice…will reduce the risk of moisture migration, which could cause texture issues and potentially reduce shelf life.”

Cyscream will be owned and produced by Iowa State’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition and featured at special Iowa State events.

The two other ice cream concepts named finalists in the contest were second place ($250) Cardinal Tracks, submitted by The Iowa Magic Creamery – Amanda Speltz, junior in food science, and Colby Abrams, senior in chemical engineering – and third place ($100) Ice Cream of the “Day,” by Morgan Nelson, sophomore in pre-dietetics, and Allison Wallace, sophomore in animal science.

The flavors in the Cardinal Tracks entry not only highlight Iowa’s agriculture through the sweet corn extract and raspberry pieces, but also represents Iowa State’s colors, cardinal and gold. Mixed in the ice cream are 3D-printed chocolates in the shape of the foot of Iowa State’s mascot, Cy, as well as a medallion with images printed on top that represent Iowa State, such as the outline of the state of Iowa.

“KIK, an award-winning stabilizer system created by an ISU food science graduate student alum, was another feature of the ice cream formulation,” said contest coordinator, Dr. Stephanie Clark.

Ice Cream of the “Day” combined pieces of rice krispie treats, mini marshmallows, and marshmallow fluff to recreate the Rice Krispie Treat for which Mildred Day is famous. The team’s hope was for Ice Cream of the “Day” to become Iowa State’s next tradition, following the traditions associated with Lake LaVerne, the campanile and the zodiac.

The ISU Signature Ice Cream Contest was open to all Iowa State students who were in good academic standing at the time of entry and prize awarding. Entrants were not required to make the ice cream, but were asked to include information about the ice cream’s formulation and ingredients in the ice cream concept paper submitted as part of their entry.

Judging was based equally on the ice cream name/flavor appeal/Iowa State theme, product description (innovation and feasibility), mix and flavoring formulation (innovation and feasibility), and a promotional video that showed the team’s enthusiasm for the ice cream concept and its relevance to Iowa State.

The contest was sponsored by Iowa State’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Wells Enterprises, Inc., and ISU Dining. Prize money for the student teams and ice cream novelties for ceremony attendees were contributed by Wells Enterprises, Inc.

MacDonald named interim senior associate dean for Iowa State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

AMES, Iowa — Ruth MacDonald has been named the interim senior associate dean and associate director of the Experiment Station of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University.

MacDonald has served for the past 13 years as professor and department chair of Iowa State’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. She also has been assistant dean of graduate education for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences since 2012.

MacDonald fills the position held by Joe Colletti, who last week was named interim dean of the college. The most current dean, Wendy Wintersteen, was named Iowa State’s new president in October and assumed her new role Nov. 20.

MacDonald began her new responsibilities yesterday.

Ruth Litchfield has been named the interim chair of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, which is co-administered by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Human Sciences.

Read the entire press release on the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences website.

Three alumni honored with Alumni Impact Awards

Three Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition alumni recently were presented the 2017 Alumni Impact Award.

Iowa State University faculty to be presented 2017 Board on Human Sciences Awards

AMES, Iowa – Two food science and human nutrition faculty members at Iowa State University will be presented awards from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities Board on Human Sciences, Inc. during a ceremony Nov. 13, in Washington, D.C.

Report highlights food and ag science breakthroughs at Iowa State University and 10 other universities

AMES, Iowa — Iowa State University and 10 other prominent research institutions have joined with the Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation in urging increased federal support of food and agricultural science.

Woteki inducted into NIFA Hall of Fame

Catherine Woteki, food science and human nutrition faculty member, was one of four individuals recently inducted into the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) Hall of Fame.

Catherine Woteki presented Henry A. Wallace Award

Catherine Woteki, professor of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University, was among those honored by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Iowa State University Alumni Association at the annual Honors and Awards Ceremony Oct. 27.

Gross-Wen Technologies named winner of entrepreneurial contest

Gross-Wen Technologies was named the first place winner of the 2017 John Pappajohn Iowa Entrepreneurial Venture Competition and awarded $25,000. The company was founded by Dr. Zhiyou Wen and Dr. Martin Gross and seeks to develop water treatment processes that are sustainable, effective and affordable.

Read the full press release here.

Iowa State researchers look into vaccines that can prevent, treat diseases caused by E.coli in humans, poultry

Dr. Melha Mellata and her team of researchers in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Iowa State University previously discovered a link between foodborne E.coli and extra-intestinal infections in humans. Now, they’re taking their research a step further by looking into potential vaccines that can be used to prevent and treat the diseases caused by the E.coli bacteria.