2018-09-15 - 2020-08-31 | Research area: Other
Human salivary alpha amylase (sAA) is the most abundant protein found in saliva. The expression of sAA is regulated by copy number variation (CNV) of the AMY1 gene, and the enzyme is responsible for the breakdown of starch into simple sugars. We lack specific knowledge as to how changes in sAA concentration impacts starch digestion during mastication or through downstream regulatory effects. Importantly, no empirical research exists that explores rate variation in the hydrolysis of raw versus cooked starch. Using a controlled in-vitro and histological approach along with human subject validation trials, I intend to address questions about the starch degrading activity of sAA in the mouth, and the potential nutritional advantages brought about by a selective increase in AMY1 CNV in human evolutionary history. These questions address diet related selective events that occurred along human evolutionary history. Understanding the resulting nutritional benefits and potential susceptibilities to metabolic and inflammatory disease promises not only resolution of our distinctly human traits but also advances towards evolutionarily-informed models of targeted therapies. This project uses a multidisciplinary approach to tackle relevant questions in the field of anthropology and human evolutionary research.