Marine ‘super Algae’ Produce Medicines And Natural Compounds For Health

Marine ‘super Algae’ Produce Medicines And Natural Compounds For Health

Improvement of bioproducts in seaweed through sustainable aquaculture

researchers of the Tel Aviv University and the Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute of Israel (IOLR) have succeeded in significantly increasing the ability of marine algae to produce healthy natural materials.

The current study focused on improving the production of bioactive compounds that offer medical benefits to humans, such as antioxidants, the concentration of which in the algae doubled; concentrations of natural sunscreens tripled; and unique protective pigments of great medical value that were substantially stimulated by ten.


According to the researchers, these findings can serve the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, food and nutritional supplement industries. The study was carried out with the innovative and sustainable approach of integrated aquaculture, which combines algae with fish farming. This method benefits algae while at the same time helping to purify seawater and minimizing negative environmental impacts.

Among the researchers are Professor FĂ©lix LĂłpez Figueroa, Julia Vega, Nathalie Korbee and Marta GarcĂ­a-SĂĄnchez from the Malaga University in Spain.

Image: Enhancement of bioproducts in seaweed through sustainable aquaculture

PhD student Doron Ashkenazi from Tel Aviv University and the Israel Institute for Oceanographic and Limnological Research Explain: “Algae, also known as macroalgae, are marine plants that form the foundation of the coastal marine ecosystem. Algae absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the environment. They purify water, provide food, habitat, and shelter for numerous species of fish and invertebrates. Not many know it, but on top of all that, seaweeds produce a wide variety of different bioactive compounds that are beneficial to humans.”

“Algae living in the intertidal zone face extreme stress conditions, including changes in salinity, temperature, drying conditions, changes in nutrient availability, and high exposure to solar radiation, especially in the ultraviolet range. (UV).So, to survive, seaweeds have evolved a unique set of chemical defense mechanisms: naturally occurring chemicals that help them cope with these harsh environments.Seaweeds are a natural factory, one could say. highly efficient for the production of valuable substances, which can offer significant benefits to humans.”

In a previous study, the same group of researchers developed an innovative technology that allows the growth of marine algae enriched with proteins and minerals such as zinc, iron, iodine, magnesium and calcium. In the current study, they sought to examine if and how it is possible to increase and maximize the production of bioactive compounds and secondary metabolites from seaweeds, which offer important health benefits. These substances include antioxidants, protective pigments, and natural UV radiation filters.

Right image: Improved seaweed, grown with the novel research method. Credit: Doron Ashkenazi

To this end, they established an original and practical culture approach, in which three local marine algae: Ulva, Gracilaria and Hypnea, were initially cultured together with fish effluents and subsequently exposed to various abiotic conditions (stressors ), namely high irradiation, nutrient scarcity, and high salinity. The scientists investigated how these changes affected the concentration of specific valuable biomaterials in the algae, with the aim of improving their production.

The results showed impressive increases in their concentrations: antioxidant levels doubled, natural sunscreen molecules from seaweed tripled, and protective pigments increased tenfold. “We developed optimal growing conditions and invented a new, clean way to increase the levels of healthy natural bioactive compounds in algae to an unprecedented level,” says Ashkenazi. “In fact, we produce custom ‘super algae’ designed for use by emerging healthcare industries for food and health applications.”

Using their farming approach, the researchers believe that in the future it will be possible to raise additional natural materials with important medical properties, such as anticancer, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibiotic substances, into the algae.

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

Image: Design of the experimental system: (a) integrated culture in the initial two weeks, (b) integrated culture in the third week, (ce) environmental stress in the third week.

The researchers also emphasize that seaweed aquaculture is environmentally friendly, preserves ecological balance, and furthermore reduces environmental risks by minimizing excessive amounts of anthropogenic nutrients and other pollutants, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reduces carbon footprint. In this way, seaweed aquaculture can help address 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, like the one we offer in the current study: technologies that promote recycling and the rational use of natural resources without overexploiting them. The study shows “, in a practical way, how we can enjoy the services of nature without harming it. Just as ‘algae’ suggests, we can learn from nature how to preserve it, and thus live and thrive alongside it.”

The article was published in the scientific journal Marine Drugs, thanks to the innovative findings of the study in the field of health and medicinal compounds derived from the sea: “Enhancing Bioproducts in Seaweeds via Sustainable Aquaculture: Antioxidant and Sun-Protection Compounds



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