Despite having successfully built up its Meg-3 branded ingredient over the past couple of years, ONC is not ignoring the potential of other marine-sourced nutrients. It recently published research results for its Thraustochytrid strain ONC-T18, currently used as a source of DHA, with a new area of research revolving around potential carotenoid and co-enzyme Q10 production.
Dr. Colin Barrow, ONC's vice president of research and development and co-author of the study, told NutraIngredients.com that this organism or others currently being studied could lead to "value added DHA", which is to say DHA plus carotenoids.
This would enable ONC to extract the DHA oil, and then the carotenoid.
Dr. Barrow also said that this may also lead to an alternative to krill oil, a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, phospholipids and anti-oxidants, but he stated that the company is not sure if it is going to follow this route.
Results of research concerned with the carotenoid and co-enzyme Q10 extraction from fermentation of Thraustochytrid strain ONC-T18 were published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Lead author Roberto Armenta reports that several techniques were used for the extraction, with the organic solvents acetone, ethyl acetate, and petroleum ether tested, in conjunction with direct and indirect ultrasonic assisted extraction.
The highest extraction yields obtained were 29 to 30.5 micrograms of carotenoids per gram of ONC-T18, with the predominant carotenoids being beta-carotene and canthaxanthin. This was obtained using a 15:75:10 ratio of petroleum ether/ acetone/ water.
However, the strain does not appear to have much potential for co-enzyme Q10, with no co-Q10 found in the ONC-T18 extract. The major co-enzyme from ONC-T18 was co-enzyme Q9.
"Thraustochytrids may represent an important source of carotenoids, antioxidants that are chemoprotective and have other health benefits (ie. eye health, cancer prevention, and anti-inflammation," wrote Armenta.
"In this instance, Thraustochytrium sp. ONC-T18 was found to produce more beta-carotene and canthaxanthin… Extraction techniques of the thraustochytrid biomass should minimize the oxidation of carotenoids, separate the lipid and carotenoid components effectively, and improve the recovery of these antioxidant components," he concluded.
The research still has several challenges and is a long-term project for ONC, said Barrow. Other organisms are being considered for astaxanthin, zeaxanthin and co-enzyme Q10, he said, and results could be "two to three years away, maybe longer."
The goal, said Dr. Barrow, was to have a less expensive source of the more expensive carotenoids. Indeed, currently astaxanthin is produced by exposure of algae to UV radiation. On the other hand, ONC is said to be focusing on astaxanthin-producing organisms in the absence of light, making the process less expensive.
Other carotenoids attracting attention from ONC are zeaxanthin and lutein, currently produced predominantly from plant sources like marigold. One avenue of research being followed is looking at producing these carotenoids from transgenic E. coli, which would mark a change for ONC since its ingredients are currently non-GM.
Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry ASAP on-line publication, ahead of print; doi: 10.1021/jf061260o "Critical Assessment of Various Techniques for the Extraction of Carotenoids and Co-enzyme Q10 from the Thraustochytrid Strain ONC-T18" Authors: R.E. Armenta, A. Burja, H. Radianingtyas, C.J. Barrow