Animal feed industry is facing a challenge of global shortage and increasing prices of protein sources. Moreover, there is increasing consumer pressure to reduce use of antibiotics and an increased interest in alternatives to enhance both animal performance and disease resistance.
Hence, there has been an increasing investment of time and money to investigate alternatives to maintain growth and performance of farm livestock, while at the same time considering the health, safety, and acceptability of the resultant animal products for the human diet.Strategies such as developing new protein sources, whole or partial replacement of existing protein sources with new protein sources and increasing the utilization efficiency of current protein sources are approaches to increase global protein utilization. In animal nutrition, diet formulation and feeding strategies are not only used to boost the growth of pigs and poultry but also to improve immune competence and maintain immune homeostasis, in order to reduce the use of antibiotics. Protein in the diet is regarded as an important nutritional factor for maintaining immune homeostasis, especially in the gut.
Proteins and protein hydrolysates, obtained upon digestion by various digestive enzymes, and after processing by microbiota, will eventually be resorbed by gut epithelial cells and influence gut immune competence and immune homeostasis. Therefore, a better understanding is required of how dietary proteins from different sources are hydrolysed along the gastrointestinal tract and what the effect of products from hydrolysed proteins is on immune competence and immune homeostasis in the gut. In addition, the feasibility of using proteins from new sources as a replacement for current protein sources needs to be elucidated. This project aims to investigate the effect of existing and novel protein sources on immune competence and immune homeostasis in the gut. It will focus on response to various proteins by intestinal epithelial cell, gut micobiota, and the gut as a system using both in vitro and in vivo approaches.