CoQ10 supplements, currently manufactured by fermentation only in Japan, may eventually be synthesized in the United States thanks to research at the University of California, Santa Barbara, reports the university this week.
Bruce H. Lipshutz, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UCSB, has developed a 'short and sweet' patented method to prepare coenzyme Q 10. He is currently talking to US companies regarding potential commercialization.
CoQ10 is produced in the human body, but after the age of about 20 the efficiency of our biosynthesis begins to drop, said Lipshutz. CoQ10 both helps cells to produce energy and acts as an antioxidant. The new process is also economically competitive, according to Lipshutz, and uses transition metal catalysts along the way, such as inexpensive nickel and cobalt complexes. Other inexpensive ingredients include one compound derived from tobacco waste. The team also reduced the number of steps involved in making CoQ10, said the National Science Foundation, which supported the work.
"The result is a very short and efficient process for making CoQ10 in the laboratory that may finally make non-fermentative production of this supplement economical," it added.
CoQ10 was first isolated in 1957 and its chemical structure was determined in 1958, according to the National Cancer Institue. Interest in CoQ10 as a therapeutic agent in cancer began in 1961, when a deficiency was noted in the blood of both Swedish and American cancer patients, especially in the blood of patients with breast cancer. A subsequent study showed a statistically significant relationship between the level of plasma CoQ10 deficiency and breast cancer prognosis, according to NCI information.
CoQ10 also is essential for the process of respiration, as the body converts oxygen into water and is thought to slow the progression of Huntington's and Parkinson's diseases.
"This (compound) affects everyone on the planet," said Lipshutz. "I am hoping to make people more aware as to how important it is to take supplemental CoQ10. For much of the population it can be viewed as an essential 'vitamin'."
The compound is marketed as a nutraceutical or supplement in the US and can be purchased in health food and discount drug stores. In Japan and several other countries however, CoQ10 is sold as a pharmaceutical requiring a prescription.