Research Background and Objective
The Lehmann lab focusses on the fate of endogenous food constituents and of biological and xenobiotic food contaminants within the food product and within the human body focussing on the impact of both the parent compounds and that of their biotransformation products on genetic stability.
It has been known for more than 30 years that about 35% of all malign tumor diseases can be attributed to diet. For some time, this notion had been exclusively explained by carcinogenic endogenous food constituents and food contaminants. However, carcinogenesis is a very complex process influenced by both the properties of the carcinogen and those of the target tissue.
Carcinogens are often mutagens, the effects of which are influenced by their absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME).
The sensitivity of a target tissue is affected by its proliferation and its detoxification, DNA repair, and apoptosis capacity. All these processes can be modulated by food constituents and contaminants in many ways: some food constituents and contaminants are mutagenic themselves, some adversely or beneficially affect either the mutagenic potential of endogenous and exogenous carcinogens or the sensitivity of human tissues by multiple ways. Therefore, certain food constituents are attractive for their use in "functional food" (also called "nutraceuticals"). Despite lack of unambiguous cause/effect relationships on a molecular level, "functional food" with real or assumed health effects are gaining importance and are consumed even without information about their safety and efficacy.
Hence the Lehmann lab focusses on:
1) the identification of mutagens in food and within the human body
2) the investigation of their molecular mode of actions
3) the investigation of functional food on the mechanisms revealed in 2)
The identification of potential mutagens focusses on electrophilic food contaminants such as the mycotoxin patulin and electrophilic biotransformation products of contaminants (e.g. PCBs) and endogenous compounds (e.g. catechol estrogens).
Constituents of functional foods currently under investigation are soy and red clover isoflavones.