Nano-sized 'trojan horse' to aid nutrition

August 25, 2008

Researchers from Monash University have designed a nano-sized "trojan horse" particle to ensure healing antioxidants can be better absorbed by the human body.

Dr Ken Ng and Dr Ian Larson from the University's Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences have designed a nanoparticle, one thousandth the thickness of a human hair, that protects antioxidants from being destroyed in the gut and ensures a better chance of them being absorbed in the digestive tract.

Antioxidants are known to neutralise the harmful effect of free radicals and other reactive chemical species that are constantly generated by our body and are thought to promote better health.

Normally our body's own antioxidant defence is sufficient, but in high-risk individuals, such as those with a poor diet or those at risk of developing atherosclerosis, diabetes or Alzheimer's disease, a nutritional source of antioxidants is required.

Dr Larson said orally delivered antioxidants were easily destroyed by acids and enzymes in the human body, with only a small percentage of what is consumed actually being absorbed.

The solution is to design a tiny sponge-like chitosan biopolymeric nanoparticle as a protective vehicle for antioxidants. Chitosan is a natural substance found in crab shells.

"Antioxidants sit within this tiny trojan horse, protecting it from attack from digestive juices in the stomach," Dr Larson said.

"Once in the small intestine the nanoparticle gets sticky and bonds to the intestinal wall. It then leaks its contents directly into the intestinal cells, which allows them to be absorbed directly into the blood stream.

"We hope that by mastering this technique, drugs and supplements also vulnerable to the digestive process can be better absorbed by the human body."

The research project will proceed to trials early in 2009.

Dr Ng said although the research was still in its early stages, the longer term aim of the project would be to include similarly treated nanoparticles into food items, similar to adding Omega-3 to bread or milk.

"For catechins – the class of antioxidants under examination and among the most potent dietary antioxidants -- only between 0.1 and 1.1 per cent of the amount consumed makes it into our blood. If we can improve that rate, the benefits are enormous."

Source: Monash University

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4 / 5 (4) Aug 25, 2008
Trojan horse is a fitting name, for the doubtful benefit of more antioxidants they want us to ingest something that sticks to the inner surface of gut without being decomposed most likely leading to serious inflammation, diarrhea and who knows what else.
1 / 5 (2) Aug 25, 2008
Agreed with superhuman. I can see this stuff glomming onto the gut wall and eventually making it where nothing at all can be absorbed. Nanoparticles of all types have been shown to case mischief in vivo, including cancer and coating lungs with a film that cannot be removed by the normal action of cilia. Also, this has potential as a bioweapon - poisons could pass undetected by tests... No thanks.
1 / 5 (2) Aug 25, 2008
BTW, don't let them sell you with "chitosan is from crab shells." They told us aspartame was from bananas, and look what trouble that has caused.
not rated yet Aug 25, 2008
They told us aspartame was from bananas[...]

No they didn't.

[...]and look what trouble that has caused.

That's just the nocebo effect talking; it curiously disappears in properly controlled studies.

Only a few people have real problems with aspartame(e.g. phenylketonuria sufferer's).
not rated yet Aug 26, 2008
There's a clear potential for these particles to be damaging to someone's health. I don't think even the researchers would deny that. Thus... controlled trials. Let's see what the monkey stool looks like first, eh?

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