Researchers from Monash University in Australia have designed a nano-sized “trojan horse” particle to ensure healing antioxidants can be better absorbed by the human body.
Ken Ng and 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. Orally delivered antioxidants are easily destroyed by acids and enzymes in the human body, with only a small percentage of what is consumed actually being absorbed, according to Larson. The solution is to design a tiny sponge-like chitosan (a natural substance found in crab shells) biopolymeric nanoparticle as a protective vehicle for antioxidants.
“Antioxidants sit within this tiny trojan horse, protecting it from attack from digestive juices in the stomach,” Larson explained. “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.”
Although the research is still in its early stages, the longer-term aim of the project, which will proceed to trials early in 2009, would be to include similarly treated nanoparticles into food items, similar to adding omega-3 to bread or milk.