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Supercharged omega-3: DSM files patent on EPA-rich modified microalgae

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

DSM said the preferred genus was Schizochytrium. ©iStock
DSM said the preferred genus was Schizochytrium. ©iStock

Related tags Nutrition Essential fatty acid Eicosapentaenoic acid Epa

DSM has developed a recombinant microalgae up to 20 times richer in EPA omega-3s than its host counterpart.

Writing in its global patent filing​, the ingredients major said such increased levels of eicosapentaeonoic acid (EPA) were a result of multiplying the gene encodings responsible for polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) synthase in the cell. 

Specifically, it had multiplied the expression level of PFA1, PFA2 and/or PFA2 to produce as many as 10 copies of the gene encodings within the microalgae.

“Surprisingly, it has been found that by overexpressing a gene encoding PFA1, and/or a gene encoding PFA3, in recombinant microalgae, EPA production can be increased by at least two-fold relative to EPA production by the host microalgae,” ​DSM wrote.

It said that in some embodiments, EPA production could be increased 5- or even 20-fold, compared to the host microalgae. Levels of EPA in the lipids produced, it said, ranged anywhere from 5% to 20% or greater.

The ratio of EPA:DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) also increased relatively, it added.

Whilst modifications could be made on a number of microalgae variants, DSM said the preferred genus was Schizochytrium.

Microbial oils – the starter ingredient

DSM said the EPA-rich modified microalgae had been developed with a number of end products in mind – cultures, isolated biomasses and microbial oils.

Whilst all could be incorporated into products, individually or combined, it said microbial oils were most efficient at producing products enriched in fatty acids, like EPA.

“The microbial oil can be extracted from a freshly harvested biomass or can be extracted from a previously harvested biomass that has been stored under conditions that prevent spoilage,”​ it wrote.

Ideally, the ‘crude’ or ‘refined’ oil contained a triacylglycerol fraction of about 35% by weight.

This oil, it said, could be directly incorporated as an additive and therefore used in a number of food and beverage products, including oils, milks, dairy-products like cheese and yogurt, baked goods, soups, confectionery, bars, juices, supplements and infant formula.

In instances where the modified alga was required in a purer form, it said the oil content could be incorporated into tablets, cachets, granules and dry powders.

Nutritional gain and therapeutic management

DSM said the composition could either be administered as a “nutritional amount” ​– effective at achieving a desired result like increasing fatty acid components in the body – or a “therapeutically effective amount” ​– effective at achieving a desired result like lessoning symptoms, prolonged survival and improved mobility.

The modified algae, for example, could be combined with a range of diet regimes like low-carb, high-protein and high-fiber, as well as exercise, weight loss and smoking cessation regimens or used to control blood pressure, improve or maintain cognitive function and increase the length of gestation of a fetus in the third trimester.

Other examples of conditions, diseases or disorders it could be used for included: acute inflammation, allergies, Alzheimer’s, asthma, blood lipid disorder, cardiovascular diseases, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, hypertension, intestinal disorders and preterm birth.

Recommended dosage was a total of 2mg EPA per 24-hour period – either in one dose or a number of smaller doses and daily or bi-daily.

Source: WIPO Publication No. WO2017194683
Published: November 16, 2017. Filed: May 11, 2017.
"Method of increasing omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids production in microalgae”
Authors: DSM – AV. Bayne and RE. Zirkle

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