Two researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Casali Institute of Applied Chemistry have received the university's Kaye Innovation Awards for their development of 'nanovehicles' to improve the delivery of nutraceuticals and cosmeceuticals into the body's blood stream and tissues.
The researchers have set up a start-up called NutraLease in cooperation with the university-owned Yissum Research and Development company and other investors, to design vehicles.
Professor Nissim Garti and his associate Dr Abraham Aserin developed microemulsions made out of water, oil, an emulsifier and sometimes alcohol as a cosolvent so that plant-based nutraceuticals, usually not soluble in water, can be absorbed by the body.
Garti explained that nutraceuticals today are often taken in capsule form or as food additives but most of these are not absorbed but are simply flushed through the body's digestive system. Cosmeceuticals, such as face creams, are also not often efficiently absorbed.
The microemulsions, or 'nanoemulsions', are more stable than regular emulsions and can absorb a significantly higher amount of the active beneficial material from plant sources than a regular emulsion, claims Garti. Nanodroplets of the microemulsion bind with nanoparticles of the nutraceutical or cosmeceutical. The nanodroplets carry the nutraceutical nanoparticles through membranes and release them upon reaching their destination.
The microemulsions are highly dilutable and also can be turned into powders. As a result, they can be used as liquid or powder food additives or taken on their own, say the researchers.
As each microemulsion must be specifically designed to suit the nutraceutical, the team use sophisticated equipment to study the nanostructure of the new vehicles and the locus of the solubilisate (nutraceutical) at the interface.
Clients of the private Yissum Research and Development Company include several major food and pharmaceutical companies which have asked for vehicles for nutraceuticals such as lycopene, phytosterol and lutein, said the researchers. And a cooking oil which can lower cholesterol in the blood has been developed and is in the early stages of being introduced to the market.