19 July 2021 – Trace minerals are key to maintaining a number of physiochemical processes in an animal’s body, which make them fundamental in maintaining its overall health and metabolism. Their supplementation in production animal diets is therefore common practice to help these animals reach and maintain peak physical performance and health.
But while the industry understands the benefits in feeding trace minerals to animals, what is a little less clear is how they are processed inside the digestive tract and their interactions with other feed ingredients.
To fill in some of these gaps, French trace mineral supplier, Animine has partnered with the University of Pau and Pays de l'Adour’s IPREM laboratory (Institute of Analytical Sciences and Physio-Chemistry for Environment and Materials) for their SPECIMAN (SPECIation for Metals for Animal Nutrition) initiative to study the journey of metallic trace elements (in particular zinc, manganese, and copper) in the digestive tracts of ruminant and non-ruminant animals.
Feedinfo recently sat down with Animine CEO, Stéphane Durosoy, the company’s R&D Manager, Florent Penen, and Dirk Schaumlöffel, the CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research) Research Director at the University of Pau to discuss what led to the SPECIMAN joint initiative and what the company hopes to gain from it.
[Feedinfo] This is not the first time we have seen Animine take part in a joint research project. Why is it so important for the company?
[Stéphane Durosoy]: Research is in the DNA of Animine and we want to be at the forefront of animal, nutritional, biological and environmental sciences. But the number of publications in scientific journals is skyrocketing, and it is less and less easy for non-specialists to have a clear understanding of these areas. This is why it is important for us to build trust with animal nutritionists.
Collaborative projects like SPECIMAN and SUMINAPP are good examples of the credit that we gain from external researchers.
We like working with leading scientific teams to better understand complex mechanisms, such as the fate of trace minerals in the digestive tract or bacterial resistance to metals.
[Feedinfo] What was the thinking behind SPECIMAN and why did you partner with the University of Pau for this initiative?
[Stéphane Durosoy]: In the field of trace minerals, there are still many unknowns which can result in fake claims. This is especially true with chelated (organically bound) sources. This is why we created SPECIMAN, to educate the feed industry on mineral nutrition in food producing animals. The project has already received a EUR 350 000 “Laboratoire Commun” (joint laboratory) grant from the French Ministry of Research, which is a very exclusive subsidy given to less than 25 projects per year at national scale.
The University of Pau is well known for its analytical techniques applied to trace elements. For example, they have contributed strongly to the identification of selenium compounds in feed additives, in animal diets and tissues, and enabling the authorisation of selenised yeasts.
[Feedinfo] What is IPREM and why is this scientific platform unique?
[Dirk Schaumlöffel]: IPREM is one of the renowned laboratories at the University of Pau and is a joint research unit with the CNRS. Scientific research at IPREM includes analytical chemistry, physical chemistry, theoretical chemistry, physics and microbiology, and its competences are based, among others, on the development of analytical strategies, in particular on the various techniques of mass spectrometry, speciation, imaging, traceability and isotopy. These skills make it possible to occupy an innovative position in many industrial sectors, both nationally and internationally.
SPECIMAN is part of this strategy, and it is a unique opportunity for IPREM to initiate an ambitious research programme in animal nutrition. In particular, this will give IPREM a prominent place in the world of traceability and speciation of trace elements at a global level.
Key to the SPECIMAN research programme is IPREM’s advanced instruments. For example, a Nanoscale Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer (NanoSIMS) for trace element imaging in biological cells and tissue at the nanometre level (one of four in France and of about 45 worldwide). This is complemented by a Time-of-Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer (ToF-SIMS) equipped with a tandem MS detector for precise identification of compounds (speciation).
In addition, a Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (LA-ICP-MS) system allows highly sensitive imaging at the micrometre scale and a multicollector ICPMS provides isotope ratios with the highest precision in order to trace the reactivity and transfer of trace elements.
[Feedinfo] Why is mineral speciation important in biology and nutrition?
[Florent Penen]: General knowledge is limited on the quantification of trace minerals in premix, feed or biological samples. But the qualitative characterisation of trace elements still remains a grey area. Speciation refers to the chemical form of the mineral: this is very important as we know that bioavailability – or at the opposite end, toxicity – depends not only on the quantity of metal but also on its chemical form. I was surprised by the lack of clarity on chelated (organically bound) sources used in the feed industry.
[Feedinfo] How would SPECIMAN help the industry address this lack of understanding?
[Dirk Schaumlöffel & Florent Penen]: With access to most modern equipment for speciation and bio-imaging, we expect to bring clarity to some grey areas, especially in the digestive tract of ruminating and non-ruminating animals.
Each animal species has specific gut environments which will impact dissolution kinetics of minerals. We are just starting to learn how physiochemical features of supplemented trace elements are predictive of their fate in the gastrointestinal tract, of their bio-accessibility at absorption sites and, ultimately, of their bioavailability (Cardoso, British Poultry Science 2021). Many studies using standard analytical techniques have tried to go beyond simple mineral concentration in the digesta by measuring the soluble content in liquid fractions, but none have been able to relate it to bioavailability.
We do not really know how trace minerals interact with other feed ingredients or with ruminal/intestinal microbiota. Even though a number of studies have identified intestinal transporters of metals in the enterocytes, passive diffusion through paracellular absorption in the small intestine is still speculated. SPECIMAN will help us address all these questions!
[Feedinfo] How will SPECIMAN support Precision Mineral Nutrition?
[Stéphane Durosoy]: Precision Mineral Nutrition requires adapting the supply of critical nutrients to animal requirements. Trace minerals are delivered either from a native origin in the basal diet, or from supplemented sources. Knowledge gaps still exist on the quantity and the digestibility of mineral sources. Under-supply of these nutrients may degrade animal performance and welfare, but an excess of metals will be excreted into the environment. By upgrading our analytical capabilities, SPECIMAN will contribute to the improvement and sustainability of feed and animal production.
Published in association with Animine