The joint research findings of RIFST with international universities and research centers recently published in the journal of Food Hydrocolloids has received wide publicity. In this regard, the English magazine of The Engineer, while introducing RIFST as the leading center for electrospinning attainments and bioactive components of food and medicine, described different aspects of this subject.
Dr. Behrouz Ghorani, an academic member of RIFST and the main author of the paper that recently appeared in the Journal of Food Hydrocolloids said that spinning a protective coating around health-promoting ingredients such as probiotics and vitamins could help shield them from the harsh conditions inside the human body. So-called functional ingredients, such as probiotics, prebiotics, and stanols and sterols are increasingly being added to foods to boost the immune system or reduce cholesterol, for example.
However, protecting these sensitive materials as they pass through the upper gastro-intestinal tract and ensuring they are delivered safely to their target site within the body is no easy task. Researchers have investigated a number of different methods for encapsulating the materials inside a protective casing, but many of these processes, such as spray-drying, are themselves too harsh, and can damage the structure of the molecules, or harm the bacteria.
So instead Dr. Ghorani and his colleague Dr. Nick Tucker of the School of Engineering at the University of Lincoln have been investigating the use of electrospinning to encapsulate the materials. In electrospinning, a solution is drawn through an electrically-charged hollow needle onto a grounded target. As the solution is drawn towards the target, it stretches out into an extremely fine fiber.
Unlike spray-drying, electrospinning can be done at room temperature, and is therefore far less harsh on the sensitive materials, Dr. Ghorani said. “These bacteria are known to be able to survive [the electrospinning process],” he said.
In a paper in the journal Food Hydrocolloids, the researchers review the process and its potential for producing nanofibers suitable for use in foods. They hope to collaborate with industrial partners to develop electrospun nanofibers for food and other applications. In the meantime, they are also investigating methods to increase the production rates of the nanoparticles, including charging the particles to higher voltages, Dr. Ghorani said.