Courtesy Assistant Professor
Elad Tako is a research physiologist at the USDA/ARS, Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture and Health at Cornell University. Dr. Tako's formal academic training in Animal Science was completed in Israel at the Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment of the Hebrew University (Ph.D), additionally during his graduate and post graduate studies Dr. Tako was collaborated and trained at North Carolina State University and Cornell University, USA. Elad has a leading role in a multi-disciplinary research team that collaborates with several international institutions aimed at alleviating dietary mineral deficiencies in at-risk populations. Elad’s research approach utilizes both cellular and animal models to assess mineral bioavailability (including iron and zinc) in standard and biofortified food crops (including maize, beans and lentil). Additionally, his research focuses on better understanding the cellular pathways that participate and/or control iron and zinc intestinal absorption.
In his research, Elad uses two main models to assess mineral bioavailability: an in vitro Caco-2 cell assay, and an in vivo Gallus gallus model. These models help us learn more about both specific and systemic effects dietary micronutrient deficiencies have in regards to human nutrition. The Caco-2 cell model allows us to observe the effects, for example, of polyphenolic compounds and other modulators of Fe and Zn bioavailability. The Gallus gallus model, with the relative ease in manipulating its diet, rapid growth, and high genetic homology between Fe and Zn-dependent proteins, makes this animal an ideal model in which to study human nutrition.
Additional research focus includes (selection of topics):
• Zn Biomarker Elucidation & Development: Although Zn deficiency affects billions of people in both developed and developing countries around the world, accurate biomarkers, or tests which are used to detect the presence of a nutritional deficiency, are lacking. Current indicators of Zn status, such as serum Zn, may not yield a true picture of one’s Zn status since it is affected by physiological processes other than Zn status. The World Health Organization has urged for the continued focus on reliable measures of Zn status especially in mild to moderate Zn deficiency. We are working to develop new, reliable indicators of Zn status to be used in human studies across various populations.
• Biofortification of Staple Food Crops (Fe and Zn bioavailability): Biofortification is a process by which micronutrient-dense staple crops can be developed using traditional breeding practices and modern biotechnology. The strategies used when biofortifying foods (such as beans, millet, and lentils) include increasing the mineral content itself, increasing enhancers of mineral absorption (e.g., ascorbic acid and prebiotics), and decreasing inhibitors (e.g., phytic acid and certain polyphenols) of mineral absorption. All of these strategies are used with the goal of improving the micronutrient status in the target population who consume these foods. A benefit of biofortification is that the crops being targeted are already consumed in high amounts by populations which suffer from these nutritional deficiencies. This makes implementing the new, biofortified crop much easier. Our lab is interested in assessing the benefits on Fe and Zn status provided by biofortified staples foods crops, by utilizing both cellular and animal models. We collaborate with plant geneticists, nutritional scientists, and policy makers when studying about biofortification.
• Prebiotics and Micronutrient Absorption: Prebiotics are usually non-digestible carbohydrates/ fibers of varying length and complexity that serve as raw material for gut bacteria and other microbes to utilize for energy. The fermentation of these substances, in turn, yield beneficial effects such as increasing production of short chain fatty acids, decreasing pro-inflammatory immune factors, and increasing the uptake of Fe and Zn. We are interested in learning more about these effects in regards to how they may modulate mineral absorption and bioavailability in vivo.
Elad co teaches for the AEM/FDSC 3290 - International Agribusiness Study Trip.
This course gives students interested in agribusiness management exposure to the managerial practices essential to the success of agriculture, agribusiness, and food companies competing in the global marketplace. The course involves an intense one-week international field study trip that takes place during Spring break of the Spring semester the course is offered. The study trip involves a combination of educational instruction at a host university, along with organized field study trips to agricultural and food system related operations, both public and private in organization, in the selected country. The course meets for a few sessions in advance of the field study trip. A paper analyzing an aspect of the field study is required.
Outcome 1: Describe successful managerial practices in global agriculture, agribusiness, and food industry companies.
Outcome 2: Explain important factors involved in agricultural industry development, including comparative advantages in production, human, and technological resources, agricultural and trade policies, integrated agricultural systems, and global competitiveness.
Outcome 3: Analyze and communicate economic concepts of agricultural activities as they relate to domestic and international influences.