New supplier bets on micelle delivery mode to boost curcumin ingredient

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Michal Heger, PhD, is a principal investigator at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Photo courtesy of Nurish.Me
Michal Heger, PhD, is a principal investigator at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Photo courtesy of Nurish.Me
A curcumin ingredient offered by a new supplier is banking on a proprietary nanotechnology delivery system to boost its bioavailability and to set it apart from other similar ingredients on the market.

The ingredient, called CoreCumin, is being offered by Nurish.Me, a nascent ingredient supplier based in Miami, FL.  The company, and the technology, is the brainchild of Michal Heger, PhD, who is the company’s chief formulation officer as well as cofounder.  Heger is a principal investigator at Utrecht University in the Netherlands as well as being a professor of nano medicine at Jiaxing University Medical College in China.

Heger’s nanotechnology approach is among the drug and ingredient delivery technologies he says he has been researching since 2004. The CoreCumin delivery system uses micelles to encapsulate nano sized curcumin particles to make them water soluble.

Boosting the solubility profile

It’s well known that curcumin powders don’t disperse well in water, preferring to clump together in tiny crystal formations. Ultra fine grinding of these powdered ingredients can ameliorate this effect to some degree, but can’t eliminate it altogether.

Using various formulation techniques using liposomes or micelles has been one approach to dealing with this issue. Making curcumin more soluble, so that it is distributed more evenly in the fluid within the gut, measurably improves its uptake. There are a number of examples of these kind of curcumin ingredients on the market, and in that sense Heger agrees that there is nothing new under the sun. But he says there is an important distinction between liposomes and micelles, when to the layman both seem to imply surrounding a hydrophobic particle with a hydrophilic carrier.

Natural components as differentiator

“Micelles and liposomes are certainly not novel. Technically speaking, liposomes are always spherical structures with an aqueous core enveloped by a phospholipid bilayer. Consequently, the amount of permutations is very limited. For micelles, there is no clearly defined structure or composition, and the compositional possibilities are endless. The novelty therefore lies in the structure and properties of the macromolecular complex itself,”​ Heger told NutraIngredients-USA.

One potential skeleton in the closet for many of these technologies is the precise nature of the constituents of these carriers.  Some of them contain constituents that would be a liability if they had to be disclosed on labels.

“For CoreCumin, the composition of the micelle is such that multiple molecules are chemically bound together in a certain fashion,”​ he said. “The greatest novelty of CoreCumin is that the complexation is performed with only natural ingredients. Many micelles use synthetic polymers such as polyethylene glycol.”

Nanotechnology misconceptions

Heger said there a many misconceptions around nanotechnology as applied to nutritional formulations.  Being exposed to tiny particles of pollutants is a big concern, but he said particles of this size abound in nature.

“I do understand the ‘urban legends’ surrounding nanoparticles inhaled or ingested. Although these fears are real in our daily lives, such as the air pollution in many Chinese cities with airborne PM 2.5 particles, the scares do not apply to ingested nanoparticles composed of natural ingredients. Let’s not forget that when you ingest plant material, you are de facto ingesting cell fragments and sub cellular organelles that are nanoparticles (basically, liposomes are empty cells). Our body makes nanoparticles called chylomicrons to digest fats. So the public scare is not necessary,” ​he said.

Unintended consequences

But he emphasized the importance of using natural materials to assemble the micelles.  Many molecules, including those that might be used as constituents in these technologies, might be presented in chiral forms, in left- or right-handed molecules, in other words.  These can have different properties, some that might even be toxic, the said.

“As long as formulators and chemists understand what they are doing and the nano formulations are properly tested (at least in vitro and in vivo), the safety concerns should be chiefly curtailed. This is particularly important for formulations that deviate from natural states, so for liposomes there are no concerns as to the potential toxicity of the nanoparticle, while for a micelle comprised of a non-natural matrix or chemically altered molecules the safety concerns MUST be eliminated prior to market introduction,” ​he said.

CoreCumin has been available on the US market since the end of 2018, Heger said.  The company is planning a battery of clinical trials to measure its performance against those of commercially available curcumin formulations. This far Heger said Nurish.Me has had interest from companies who want to add the ingredient to RTD beverages or in caps for point of consumption delivery.  He said there has been interest, too, in adding the ingredient into CBD formulations.

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