Marine biodiversity is far more important than terrestrial biodiversity. Life originated from oceans, and gradually adapted to brackish and fresh waters via rivers and streams, to finally conquest the ground environment.
This evolution involved only a very small number of species. In the oceans, three ‘families’ coexist: green, red and brown, but only the first one left the aquatic environment and most of the red and brown species have not even colonised freshwaters. Thus, red and brown algae (macro-and microalgae) have no terrestrial equivalent and their metabolites are almost all originals.
Scientists will find the largest chemodiversity in the marine environment with the best chance to find new models of molecules with new biological activities. Microalgae, at the origin of life on earth, present across the seas, oceans and freshwater sources, are a source of compounds of interest and represent a world to discover. They represent hundreds of thousands of species according to estimates. These are chlorophyll photoautotrophic organisms that appeared billions of years ago. Microalgae may be pelagic or benthic and they are defined as undifferentiated unicellular or multicellular organisms and may belong to the suborder of eukaryotes or prokaryotes such as cyanobacteria. These microorganisms play a major role in our planet and are gathered around a physiological coherence, oxygenic photosynthesis.
The use of molecules derived from marine organisms for therapeutic or cosmetic uses is still limited. With few exceptions, and unlike the terrestrial environment, there is virtually no oral tradition or any traditional medicine or pharmacopeia regarding the use of molecules from the marine environment. The few known rare examples are in the Far East, in some Pacific islands and in some Scandinavian sources. Natural substances isolated from marine organisms, from prokaryotes or eukaryotes are often characterised by the presence of chemical elements or structures rarely observed or even unknown in the terrestrial environment. It is true for primary and secondary metabolites.
Expression of protective molecules
These microorganisms have the ability to develop in various kinds of environments
even in extreme conditions (of temperature, pressure, pH, etc.). Microalgae can adjust their metabolisms and/or produce specific molecules for their protection against chemical, physical and microbiological stresses.
The culture of microalgae is easy to modulate because they are able to adapt themselves to multiple constraints. Besides, production of valuable substances by microalgae can be manipulated by the design of cultivation conditions, known as metabolic induction. These culture methods have been developed to induce microalgae metabolic readjustments towards over-expression or accumulation of high added value molecules. Especially under suboptimal conditions, the algae experience stress and, as a result, produce substances like pigments, carbohydrates or oil. For example, excess of light stimulates the production of carotenes in the cell. At the same time these pigments are antioxidants and protect the cell from harmful free radicals generated by the overdose of light. In fact, all culture parameters can be changed and controlled such as culture medium (nutrient composition), light (intensity, spectral quality, photoperiod), temperature, pH and aeration (gas composition, turbulence).
Following the colonisation of microalgae within various biotopes, they have developed resistance structures to resist unfavourable living conditions. This environmental adaptability induces the synthesis of biomolecules with particular properties of interest in terms of valorisation. As a result, microalgae are exploited for various markets (human food, animal feed, energy production, sewage treatment, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals). For example in nutraceuticals, Spirulina containing 60% crude protein, vitamins, minerals and other substances, is generally used as a dietary supplement.
A collection of cultures
The company Greensea (belonging to the Greentech group) is dedicated to the marine world and valorises algae of all kinds and from any origin. Greensea’s R&D department analyses the interactions between the physical, chemical and biological processes, which concern the biological production and the applications of these microalgae. Greensea has an important culture collection with more than 400 different species of microalgae. Isolated from multiple waters of the world, they are cultivated as pure strains in intensive systems of annular or tubular photobioreactors that provide a controlled environment for algae culture. Different kinds of culture conditions have been developed, in autotrophy or heterotrophy. The metabolic induction origin signifies mimicking the work of nature in controlling and modifying the culture parameters during the final production step either in batch or in continuous mode. These modifications trigger the microalgae physiological adjustments towards overexpression or accumulation of high added value targeted metabolites. Greensea is specialised in this technology and uses its own collection of microalgae and the metabolic induction concept to produce specific active molecules as new active ingredients for cosmetics.
Microalgae are rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins, polysaccharides and polyphenols. Among these compounds, ExoPolySaccharides (EPS) reveal a multitude of properties depending on their structure and on the organism producing them. The synthesis of EPS has been studied in microorganisms since 1880. Once excreted in the external environment, this EPS can form mucilage around the cells and form a gel-like network.
EPS come in two forms. They may be capsular (CPS) developing a hydrophilic layer around the cell or be free (RPS) forming a viscous phase called ‘slime’. These polymers exhibit a variety of monosaccharide combinations of significant diversity and consist essentially of mannose, arabinose, galactose and galacturonic acid and to a lesser extent rhamnose, glucose, xylose and fucose. Mucilage ‘gel’ ensures several roles, mainly a physical barrier with the external environment, and the adhesion of cells to each other as well as the rapid assimilation of nutrients.
These bioactive molecules are then of great potential in several fields; in cosmetics, certain fractions of EPS have strong similarities with hyaluronic acid; in pharmacy as antiparasitic agents, and in the field of biomaterials for bones and dermal regeneration.
Greensea has launched a long-term programme around the production and/or modification of microalgae EPS and optimisation of cultivation parameters according to the target species.
A methodology was applied and detailed for each species of microalgae. The microalgae and cyanobacteria EPS are currently being studied for their interest in the cosmetics industry. One of the R&D objectives concerns the application of original post-treatment procedures on cyanobacteria in order to separate the various metabolites as well as the production of EPS from two diatoms and a golden microalgae. These microalgae were selected after observation of mucilage within the culture tubes in the Strain Collection.
Greensea already markets actives from algae origins with strong links with different polysaccharides, treated by original protocols in order to either find overexpression or even hydrolysis in a fine tuned manner in these expressed molecules. These actives are now renowned as treatments for rosacea like Silidine®, obtained from a microalgal origin and producing a subtle mix between oligosaccharides and essential oligoelements with anti-erythema properties. Silidine induces the constriction of dilated microvessels by stimulating the synthesis of endothelin-1 protein.
The activation of this metabolic pathway results in the contraction of the vascular smooth muscle cells. The ingredient improves vascular tonicity, can reduce redness, red patches or also heavy legs syndrome.
QT-40® is an oligosaccharide developed by biochemical engineering. This marine active acts against facial sagging by re-sculpting facial contour and plumping the dermis. QT-40 has an effect on the biological pathway involving in RHAMM (Receptor for Hyaluronan Mediated Motility) protein. Thus it allows the establishment and the maintenance of the extracellular matrix network and architecture. It also induces matrix components synthesis (hyaloronic acid and total collagens), maintenance and preservation of the matrix against degrading enzymes (Matrix Metallo Proteinases). The ingredient is an original remodelling active.
Algae represent an almost inexhaustible source. Their important biodiversity associated with their richness in original compounds make them a unique and natural source of new bioactive molecules. Moreover, the specific control of their culture and the development of the metabolic induction concept enhances the control of the production of specific molecules of interest. Sustainability is a major concern within the cosmetics and toiletries industry. Consequently, the development of effective natural actives is an important challenge for raw materials manufacturers. For these different reasons, algae culture associated with metabolic induction (or not) is a technology that can be considered as Effective, Economic and Ecological. Very few companies are in the situation to, not only grow algae in a very controlled ways, to devote a strong R&D but also finally obtain an original active under the same roof. This is a case of Greensea strongly benefiting from the synergy to a fast growing group (Greentech) allowing launches of such ambitious programmes.
TRI-K Industries, Inc. is a leading manufacturer and supplier of specialty actives and ingredients to the global personal care and cosmetic market. Since 1974, we at TRI-K have provided innovative new products and concepts for all major segments of the industry.We pride ourselves on offering quality products, customized...
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