The umbrella project- called NeurOliv - groups together researchers from universities and biotechnology companies and will receive nearly €1m in funding from the German ministry of education and research.
Lead researcher Dr Gunter Eckert told NutraIngredients that the project will build on his previous research which tested extracts from olive-mill waste water and found them to be high in different polyphenols including the antioxidant hydroxytyrosol.
Eckert said these extracts had been shown to protect from oxidative and nitrosative stress and improved mitochondrial function.
“In the new project we will screen a variety of isolated olive ingredients for their potential to improve mitochondrial function in vitro. The best compounds will be further tested for their efficacy in mouse models of brain ageing and Alzheimer's disease,” he said.
Functional foods and new nutriceuticals
The Darmstadt University researchers will also develop new biotech processes to extract the olive compounds. Using the relevant genetic information and cultured bacteria they aim to produce pure olive compounds in high yields.
Stefan Marx of N-Zyme BioTec, the nutriceutical and pharmaceutical company who will turn the extracts into products, said this new process will be more efficient.
"When it comes to production, this means we aren’t dependent on the seasonal harvesting of olives in growing areas.”
Eckert said the research would first focus on identifying the amount of polyphenols that could be achieved through fortified functional foods and may then look into their use in supplements.
“[We will produce] high-purity ingredients in large quantities that can be used to develop functional foods, such as olive oil, margarine, spread, sauces, etc enriched with active olive ingredients.”
Gunter Eckert leads the nutritional neuroscience research team of Goethe University in Frankfurt, whose aim is to "explore the underlying mechanisms of brain ageing and of neurodegenerative diseases and its modulation by food-based prevention”.