Nominee: Anna Vallverdú Queralt, University of Barcelona, Spain
Nominated By: Alexander Medina Remón, University of Barcelona, Spain
Supporting Comments: Anna Vallverdú Queralt joined the Natural Antioxidant group in 2008 to start her PhD program. She has developed some techniques using LC–MS to analyze polyphenols in food and biological samples. She has also carried out two predoctoral research stays in well-recognized centres during her PhD – the University of Lleida (Spain) and University of Bologna (Italy). Vallverdú Queralt has contributed greatly to our group since joining it as a PhD student, due to her enthusiasm and qualifications. She is action-oriented and full of energy for the things she sees as challenging, and she is not afraid of acting with a minimum of planning. She is hard-working with good work and communication skills, able to efficiently prepare her research and execute a plan, work in a team and meet deadlines. She knows what she wants from a task and actively works to achieve it. She does not wait for others to open doors. Vallverdú Queralt is bright and intelligent, and very receptive to learning from her supervisors. What’s more, she learns quickly when faced with new problems. In group brainstorming sessions, she makes valuable contributions with original ideas. She has shown herself able to make well-judged decisions based on a mixture of analysis and experience. At the same time, she is able to maintain a two-way dialogue with others on work and results. She creates a climate in which people want to do their best work.
What drove you to choose a career in bioanalysis?
While studying for my degree in Chemistry and a Master’s in Food Innovation, my main motivation was the possibility of specializing in bioanalysis research, because it is a dynamic field undergoing an exciting technological revolution. When I had the opportunity to join the Antioxidant Research Group at the University of Barcelona to finish my PhD, the experienceof working and interacting with scientists was very rewarding and stimulating. In the future, I would like to work in the University as a researcher and teacher. I am keen on the idea of sharing my knowledge and experiences with my peers and students.
Describe the main highlights of your bioanalytical research, and its importance to the bioanalytical community both now and in the future
I have developed methods for the analysis of polyphenols and carotenoids in food and biological samples, involving LC coupled to MS, such as LTQ-Orbitrap-MS, quadrupole-time of flight-MS, triple quadrupole-MS. These methods also have application in metabolomics analysis. New bioanalytical tools are required for the identification of biomarkers of disease risk (dyslipidemia, obesity, cancer or cardiovascular diseases) in urine, plasma and/or tissues. Accurate mass measurement of product ions formed in MSn experiments facilitates the elucidation of the structure of unknown metabolites, and is thus a valuable tool when searching for nutritional biomarkers to assess the biological effects of polyphenol consumption. Evaluating the effect of antioxidant consumption through clinical studies in animals and humans has an important role in tackling widespread chronic diseases such as cancer or cardiovascular diseases.
Describe the most difficult challenge you have encountered in the laboratory and how you overcame it?
Identification of polyphenols is a complex task due to the wide variety of structures present in nature and the lack of commercially available polyphenol standards. When using methods of MS in the search for potential biomarkers in biological and food matrices, I found that triple quadrupole experiments had many limitations, since they required considerable instrument time and a high volume of samples. This motivated me to work on developing an improved bioanalytical methodology, using LC-ESI-LTQ-Orbitrap-MS or LC-ESI-QTOF-MS. Accurate mass measurement of product ions facilitates the elucidation of the structure of unknown biomarkers, and LC-ESI-LTQ-Orbitrap-MS and LC-QTOF-MS allow unambiguous assignment of all fragment ions with fewer experiments and easier interpretation than previous methods. Being able to apply the newer techniques was very rewarding since they clearly gave more sensitive and better-resolved chromatograms, which facilitated the identification of polyphenols.
Where do you see your career in bioanalysis taking you?
Diets rich in fruit and vegetables are generally associated with a reduced risk of developing several chronic diseases such as Alzheimers, cardiovascular diseases and many types of cancer. These healthy effects have been particularly related to the phytochemical content (mainly polyphenol compounds) of foods. Polyphenols are a widespread family of phytochemicals in plants with diverse biological functions. Interest in their analysis has increased due to their recognized physiological actions, including cardioprotective functions such as reduction of homocysteine, platelet aggregation, and blood pressure levels. Evidence of a preventive effect of plant-derived food consumption on cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis is, to date, circumstantial but rapidly accumulating. In the future, I would like to learn other techniques of MS, NMR and metabolomics to identify other biomarkers that may help to identify the mechanisms causing chronic diseases.
How do you envisage the field of bioanalysis evolving in the future?
Bioanalysis has an important role to play in the production of healthy, structured and tasteful food, as well as improving the bio-accessibility of nutrients that could help to reduce chronic diseases. A science-based approach is required to fully unlock the potential of fruit and vegetable matrices, considering both the bioavailability of health-promoting components and acceptance by consumers, as well as environmental and legal issues. It is crucial to develop new analytical techniques to gain scientific knowledge in medicine, chemistry, biochemistry and food technology. Sharing knowledge from different fields of science would lead to a better understanding of biochemical problems.
Please list 5 of your recent publications, and select one that best highlights your career to date in the field of bioanalysis.
Vallverdú-Queralt A, Jáuregui O, Di Lecce G, Andrés-Lacueva C, Lamuela-Raventós RM. Screening of polyphenol content of tomato-based products through accurate-mass spectrometry (HPLC-ESI-QTOF). Food Chem. 129, 877–883 (2011).
Vallverdú-Queralt A, Medina-Remón A, Casals-Ribes I, Amat M, Lamuela-Raventós RM. A metabolomic approach differentiates between conventional and organic ketchups. J. Agr. Food Chem. 59, 11703–11710 (2011).
Vallverdú-Queralt A, Medina-Remón A, Casals-Ribes I, Waterhause AL, Andrés-Lacueva C, Lamuela-Raventós RM. Effect of tomato industrial processing on phenolic profile and hydrophilic antioxidant capacity. LWT-Food Sci. Technol. 47, 154–160 (2012).
Vallverdú-Queralt A, Martínez-Huélamo M, Arranz S, Miralles E, Lamuela-Raventós RM. Differences in the carotenoid content of ketchups and gazpachos through HPLC-ESI(Li+)-MS/MS correlated with their antioxidant capacity. J. Sci. Food Agr. 92, 2043–2049 (2012).
Vallverdú-Queralt A, Oms-Oliu G, Odriozola-Serrano I, Lamuela-Raventós RM, Martín-Belloso O, Elez-Martínez P. Metabolite profiling of phenolic and carotenoid content in tomatoes after moderate-intensity pulsed electric field treatments. Food Chem. 136, 199–205 (2013).