Scientists Have Dramatically Increased the Health and Medicinal Value of Seaweed

Enhanced Seaweed

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Enhanced seaweed, cultivated utilizing the novel analysis technique. Credit: Doron Ashkenazi

Scientists from Tel Aviv University and the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute (IOLR) have made vital strides in enhancing seaweed’s capability to supply wholesome pure supplies.

Their latest analysis has been centered round boosting the manufacturing of bioactive compounds in seaweed that present human well being advantages. These embody antioxidants, whose focus within the seaweed has been elevated twofold; pure sunscreens, whose concentrations have seen a threefold rise; and medically beneficial distinctive protecting pigments, which have been dramatically enhanced tenfold.

According to the researchers, these findings could serve the pharmaceutical, cosmetics, meals, and dietary complement industries. The research was carried out with the progressive and sustainable method of built-in aquaculture, which mixes seaweed with fish cultivation. This technique advantages the seaweed whereas on the similar time serving to to purify the seawater and reduce unfavourable environmental impacts.

The new growth was led by Ph.D. pupil Doron Ashkenazi of Tel Aviv University and the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute, beneath the steerage of Prof. Avigdor Abelson of Tel Aviv University’s School of Zoology and Prof. Alvaro Israel of the IOLR in Haifa, in collaboration with different main researchers from Israel and world wide, together with Guy Paz from IOLR; natural chemistry professional Dr. Shoshana Ben-Valid; Dr. Eitan Salomon from the National Center for Mariculture in Eilat; and Prof. Félix López Figueroa, Julia Vega, Nathalie Korbee, and Marta García-Sánchez from Malaga University in Spain.

The article was printed within the scientific journal Marine Drugs, because of the research’s groundbreaking findings within the discipline of marine-derived well being and medicinal compounds.

Underwater Seaweed Garden

Underwater seaweed backyard, Bat-Yam, Israel. Credit: Doron Ashkenazi

Doron Ashkenazi explains: “Seaweed, often known as macroalgae, are marine crops that kind the idea of the coastal marine ecosystem. The seaweed soak up carbon dioxide and launch oxygen into the atmosphere. They purify the water, and supply meals, habitat, and shelter for quite a few species of fish and invertebrates. Not many are aware of it, however on top of all that, seaweed produce a wide variety of distinct bio-active compounds that are beneficial to humans.”

He continues, “The seaweed living in the intertidal zone face extreme stress conditions, which include changes in salinity, temperature, desiccation conditions, changes in the availability of nutrients, and high exposure to solar radiation, especially in the ultraviolet (UV) range. Therefore, in order to survive, the seaweed have developed a unique set of chemical defense mechanisms – natural chemicals that help them cope with these harsh environments. One could say that seaweed are highly efficient natural factories for the production of valuable substances, that may offer significant benefits to humans.”

In a previous study, the same group of researchers developed an innovative technology that enables the growth of seaweed enriched with proteins and minerals such as zinc, iron, iodine, magnesium, and calcium. In the current study, they sought to examine whether and how it is possible to increase and maximize the seaweed’ production of bio-active compounds, and secondary metabolites, that offer significant health benefits. These substances include antioxidants, protective pigments, and natural UV radiation filters.

To this end, they established an original and practical cultivation approach, in which three local seaweed: Ulva, Gracilaria, and Hypnea, were initially grown alongside fish effluents, and subsequently exposed to various abiotic conditions (stressors), namely high irradiance, nutrient starvation, and high salinity. The researchers investigated how these changes affected the concentration of specific valuable biomaterials in the seaweed, with the aim of enhancing their production.

The results showed impressive increases in their concentrations: the antioxidant levels were doubled, the seaweed natural sunscreen molecules were tripled, and protective pigments were increased by tenfold!

“We developed optimal cultivation conditions and invented a new and clean way to increase the levels of healthy natural bio-active compounds in seaweed to an unprecedented level,” says Ashkenazi. “We in fact produced ‘super seaweed’ tailor designed to be utilized by the emerging health industries for food and health applications.”

Using their cultivation approach, the researchers believe that in the future it will be possible to elevate seaweed to additional natural materials with important medical properties, such as anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and ant-biotic substances.

Furthermore, the current methodology has the potential to be applied in the seaweed global aquaculture industry and can help promote the State of Israel as a leading power in seaweed biotechnology.

The researchers also emphasize that seaweed aquaculture is environmentally-friendly, preserving the ecological balance, and furthermore, reduces environmental risks by minimizing excessive amounts of anthropogenic nutrients and other pollutants, reducing the emission of greenhouse gases, and lowering the carbon footprint. In this way, seaweed aquaculture can help cope with global environmental challenges such as pollution, habitat loss, and the climate crisis.

Doron Ashkenazi concludes: “In the future, humanity will focus on creating science-based environmental solutions, such as the one we offer in the current study: technologies that promote recycling and the sound use of natural resources without overexploiting them. The study demonstrates, in a practical manner, how we can enjoy nature services without harming it. Just as the “seaweed” suggests, we can learn from nature how to preserve it, and thus live and prosper alongside it.”

Reference: “Enhancing Bioproducts in Seaweeds via Sustainable Aquaculture: Antioxidant and Sun-Protection Compounds” by Doron Yehoshua Ashkenazi, Félix L. Figueroa, Nathalie Korbee, Marta García-Sánchez, Julia Vega, Shoshana Ben-Valid, Guy Paz, Eitan Salomon, Álvaro Israel and Avigdor Abelson, 7 December 2022, Marine Drugs.
DOI: 10.3390/md20120767