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From the background information supplied by the inventors, news correspondents obtained the following quote: "The field of this disclosure relates to methods and systems for analyzing soybeans and, more particularly, to methods and systems for differentiating varieties of soybeans based on a characteristic of the soybeans.
"Advances in biotechnology and crop science have allowed for expression of certain phenotypes in agricultural commodities such as soybeans. These advances have resulted in various soybean varieties including those with high oil, low linoleic acid content, that contain certain fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid or stearidonic acid or even soybean varieties that are high in .beta.-conglycinin protein.
"Soybeans with high levels of .beta.-conglycinin protein have recently been found to be advantageous. .beta.-conglycinin protein has been found to influence soybean odor and the odor of the resulting products with lower amounts of .beta.-conglycinin protein corresponding to greater odor. .beta.-conglycinin also influences the solubility of the soybean compositions in food beverages with higher amounts of .beta.-conglycinin resulting in smoother and more consistent beverages.
".beta.-conglycinin is also believed to positively impact human health (Baba et al., J. Nutr. Sci. Vitaminol., 50(1):26-31 (2004)). In particular, 3 conglycinin has been found to lower cholesterol, triglycerides and visceral fat. Kohno et al. demonstrated a significant reduction in triglyceride levels and visceral fat in human subjects that consumed 5 grams of .beta.-conglycinin per day (Kohno et al., J Atheroscler Thromb, 13: 247-255, (2006)). Similarly, Nakamura et al. found that .beta.-conglycinin upregulates genes associated with lipid metabolism in a primate model and found that .beta.-conglycinin had a significant effect in preventing bone mineral density loss (Nakamura et al., Soy Protein Res. 8: 1-7 (2005)). In addition, .beta.-conglycinin demonstrated effects in lowering serum insulin and blood sugar (Moriyama et al., Biosci. Biotechnol. Biochem., 68(2):352-359 (2004)). Due to .beta.-conglycinin effects on triglycerides, cholesterol, fat, insulin and sugar levels, it may play an important role in health programs. In addition, .beta.-conglycinin inhibits artery plaque formation in mice and may similarly affect human subjects as well (Adams et al., J. Nutr., 134(3):511-516 (2004)).
".beta.-conglycinin may also significantly affect intestinal microflora in humans. .beta.-conglycinin inhibits growth of harmful bacteria, such as E. coli, while stimulating growth of beneficial bacteria, such as bifidobacteria, in a number of animal models (Nakamura et al., Soy Protein Res 7: 13-19, 2004; Zuo et al., World J Gastroenterol 11: 5801-5806 (2005)). .beta.-conglycinin could be used both to reduce E. coli growth after infection and maintain a healthy intestinal microbial community.
"Soybean varieties high in .beta.-conglycinin content include those described in
"Soybeans high in .beta.-conglycinin content may be processed separately from commodity soybeans to take advantage of the .beta.-conglycinin content of the soybeans (e.g., for incorporation into nutritional formulas and other beverages). Conventional methods of differentiating soybeans with relatively high .beta.-conglycinin content involve gel electrophoresis (e.g., SDS-PAGE analysis) of soybean protein crude extracts. Gel electrophoresis techniques are not practical for differentiating soybeans at the point of grain delivery because these techniques are too labor-intensive and time-consuming.
"Furthermore, it is desirable to differentiate soybeans that are low in odor or aroma from more odorous varieties so that the low-flavored varieties may be incorporated in beverages and the like for human consumption. Conventional flavor differentiation techniques involve gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, which is not practical because it is too complex and expensive. A continuing need exists for new methods and systems for differentiating soybean varieties that contain high-amounts of .beta.-conglycinin and/or a low amount of odor or aroma and, particularly, methods that are simple to perform and provide results quickly making them suitable for use at the point of grain delivery (e.g., at grain elevators or processing plants)."
Supplementing the background information on this patent, NewsRx reporters also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "In one aspect of the present disclosure, a method for differentiating soybeans includes heating a sample of soybeans to release one or more volatile compounds from the soybeans. The volatile compounds are sensed to generate one or more electronic signals. The electronic signals are analyzed to determine a characteristic of the soybeans.
"Another aspect of the present disclosure is directed to a method of determining the relative amount of .beta.-conglycinin protein in a sample of soybeans. The sample of soybeans is heated to release one or more volatile compounds from the soybeans. The volatile compounds are sensed to generate one or more electronic signals. The electronic signals are processed to determine whether the sample of soybeans contains .beta.-conglycinin protein in a concentration greater than commodity soybeans.
"In a further aspect of the present disclosure, a method of determining the relative intensity of odor of a sample of soybeans includes heating the sample of soybeans to release one or more volatile compounds from the soybeans. The volatile compounds are sensed to generate one or more electronic signals. The electronic signals are processed to determine whether the sample of soybeans is less odorous than commodity soybeans.
"Yet another aspect of the present disclosure is directed to a system for determining the relative amount of .beta.-conglycinin protein in a sample of soybeans. The system includes a sensor and a processor. The sensor generates one or more electronic signals in response to contact with a gaseous compound. The processor is configured to analyze the electronic signals and determine the amount of .beta.-conglycinin protein in the sample of soybeans.
"Various refinements exist of the features noted in relation to the above-mentioned aspects of the present disclosure. Further features may also be incorporated in the above-mentioned aspects of the present disclosure as well. These refinements and additional features may exist individually or in any combination. For instance, various features discussed below in relation to any of the illustrated embodiments of the present disclosure may be incorporated into any of the above-described aspects of the present disclosure, alone or in any combination."
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