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A Protein Approach to Solvent-free Extraction
By: Katie Anderson (Schaefer), Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine
Posted: August 1, 2011, from the August 2011 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries.
In the past decade, global warming coupled with financially challenged global economies has presented an arduous challenge for the personal care industry. Formulators worldwide were tasked with creating more eco-friendly and natural personal care products at affordable price points. Natural products have been made; however, consumers have found them to be sometimes less efficacious then their synthetic counterparts—and often more expensive.
Nearly a year and a half ago, Ilya Raskin, PhD, a professor II in the department of plant biology and pathology at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, stumbled upon a possible solution to creating an efficacious, cost-effective natural product using plant proteins commonly found in food when he isolated the beneficial compounds in blueberry juice while leaving out ancillary materials. As Raskin hypothesized, his method separated the antioxidants from the water and sugar in the blueberries, and he soon approached Bertold Fridlender, a visiting professor at Rutgers, and individualsa from North Carolina State University and Rutgers, to form Nutrasorb LLC, a functional foods and ingredients company supported partially by Rutgersb. Although the company’s initial focus was in functional foods, it has begun its foray into personal care.
Good In, Bad Out
The protein extraction idea was conceived while searching for an alternative to current extraction methods. “We were concentrating bioactives using extraction processes that involved solvents and other chemical practices. We wanted to improve on this process and develop a natural alternative to extraction with harsh solvents,” Raskin explained. He discovered that common [proprietary] food proteins could replace solvents to separate the beneficial compounds.
To produce the concentrates, Raskin applied what he calls a “kitchen sink” approach, which involves taking the proteins (matrix), mixing them with the juice obtained from the plant, incubating the two under the right temperature and pH level for 5 to 10 minutes, and spinning down or filtering out the matrix and bioactive concentrate, which are not soluble. According to Raskin, this method produces two high-value products from two low-value products. The first product is the enriched matrix, but the other is a sugary water that is then concentrated by the company to be used as a natural sweetener. Through the conditions described, the protein is said to bind to the material’s beneficial compounds. “The conditions convert the matrix into a powerful magnet that selectively binds and attracts the good plants materials (terpenoids, polyphenols, etc.),” added Raskin. who finds this process to be simple but effective.
Although he started with blueberries, the process has been extended to a variety of materials. “You can do the same thing with plants such as aloe and chamomile. As long as the compounds are mildly soluble in water, this process can be applied. We just juice it or squeeze it and then react it with the matrix and separate the enriched matrix,” added Raskin.