Marica Engström

Short biography

• 2010 BSc (UTU, Chemistry)
• 2012 MSc (UTU, Natural Compound Chemistry)
• 2016 PhD (UTU, Understanding the bioactivity of plant tannins: developments in analysis methods and structure-activity studies)

Missions

Since my undergraduate studies, I have had one main mission that keeps me endlessly enthusiastic about natural compound chemistry; to better understand how tannins are responsible for the positive effects they have on human and animal health as well as environment and how to utilize this information in various tannin-based applications. As many of these aspects initially occur from tannin-protein interactions, it has naturally become one of my main interests. In addition to basic chemistry, I have been lucky to be involved in more applied research as well; this helps to keep an open mind and to see things in a wider perspective.

One of the most fascinating aspects related to tannin bioactivity is their structure-activity relationships. The aim of these structure-activity studies is to be able to predict the activities of yet non-studied compounds based on their structural features. The ultimate goal is to find out the most potently active plant species without the need to isolate and separately test all of their metabolites for potent bioactivities. To get there, one of course needs to isolate, purify and characterize a large set of compounds to be tested for the desired activities. Similarly, their qualitative and quantitative analysis from plant samples is a prerequisite for understanding their biological functions - an area where there is always room for improvements!

I have always had a strong interest on instruments and all kind of technical work as well, thus, it is no surprise that one of my main missions is to further develop analytical methods for the analysis of tannins, different tannin properties and tannin bioactivity. In addition to methods based on sophisticated instruments, such as LC-MS/MS, it is important to develop methods that are simple to operate and could also be used with limited resources. For example, simple and rather unspecific methods that allow the estimation of how suitable some plant is to be used as environmentally friendly forage, could easily and without significant costs be used in different research environments, starting from developing countries. When available, the more specific and expensive methods could be used as complementary together with the unspecific ones.

Last but not least, when working in vitro, one must remember that in vivo is a completely different world. Thus, in vitro activities should always be treated with a touch of caution. This is strongly related to my current mission in the OptiFeed project in which I hope to step-by-step move from in vitro closer to in vivo and this way to better understand tannin bioactivity and their positive effects.

 

Dr. Marica Engström
Postdoctoral researcher

Phone: +358 29 450 3168
Email: mtengs(at)utu.fi

Postal address:
University of Turku
Department of Chemistry
Vatselankatu 2
FI-20500 Turku
Finland