A class of marine microbes may prove to be a valuable source of nutritional supplements and other useful ingredients for various practical applications in medicine, cosmetics and even animal-free meat, according to a study by researchers at Flinders University .
The research, published in Trends in biotechnology, focuses on thraustochytrids. These microbes are found in the waters of southern Australia and may be useful due to the omega-3 fatty acids in their lipid profile which can be extracted through a fermentation process.
“By adjusting thraustochytrids through precision fermentation, we can produce single cell oil (SCO), which can be used by the nutraceutical industry to produce supplements and other nutraceuticals, with the added benefit that it does not does not require agricultural land and can be grown in a controlled environment, keeping the SCO free from contamination,” said Associate Professor Munish Puri of Flinders University College of Medicine and Public Health.
“We also know that thraustochytrids can produce a wide range of valuable bioproducts, such as omega-3 fatty acids, squalene (used in cosmetics and vaccines), exopolysaccharides (used in pharmaceuticals), enzymes, feed for aquaculture, pigments and lipids suitable for the composition of biodiesel.
These components can all prove useful for various industries if extracted through the use of a large-scale bioreactor system. Importantly, the composition of fermented thraustochytrids makes it an attractive ingredient for animal-free meats, which could benefit from their fatty structure, which most plants lack.
“To produce plant-based meats, you need proteins, nutrients and fats. Thraustochytrids are an oleaginous (oily) microorganism that produces a high content of lipids (fats) and these fats are expected to mimic the structure of animal fats, enhancing the sensory properties of plant-based meats and imparting delicious taste,” Puri said. .
The research is now applied through a partnership with Feed Ingredients as part of the “Advanced Lipid Fermentation Facility for Local Manufacturing of Foods of the Future” project, which received $2.829 million from the federal government’s Cooperative Research Center Projects (CRC-P) grant program. The project aims to produce environmentally friendly proteins using fermented thraustochytrids.