Dr. Thomas Horn

We study life - the way it works and the way it looks. If life ends, we study what remains.

Each day we are consuming different kinds of food most of which is given to us by nature. In the place and time we are living these foods are produced at an unkown location made from raw materials we never see. Producers are therefore by law obligated to label their products with information about the contents. Consumers hereby have the liberty to know what they are buying and controlling authorities can test products for their authenticity. Problems and solutions authenticating biological products are in the focus of our investigations.

Genetic Diagnostics

As someone not specialized in morphological distinction of a certain group of organisms it is hard to be sure that the organisms in front of you is what you think it is. Even when you use determination keys for that group, if you lack experience and have not seen what the key is trying to describe to you, it will be hard to be exact with your determination.

Since we are mostly working with higher plants, there are other obstacle to be considered. Most descriptions are based on an adult plant, with fully developed sexual organs. Additionally plants are highly variable. Depending on environmental conditions one indivudual sometimes can - based on morphological traits - be very different from another individual of the same species.

Taking these considerations into account you can imagine the challenge of identifying tiny fractions of dead plant tissue which is the case in most processed foods.

The molecular approach offers the ability to identify organisms based on a few molecules of genomic DNA - even highly degraded. But nevertheless, the most important factor remains: You need a reliable and suitable reference of the species the organism belongs to. Questions that suddenly become important are not only, how the molecular approach works and how reliable it is, it also becomes important how well the species itselfe has been studied, how is it classified within the genus, what is known about its ecology, distribution, etc.

We try to combine the old with the new, because nature is our prototype.