Known as HydroZitLa, the product, which contains banana stem extract, citrate from food grade citric acid that is commercially available, and blue pea flower as the active ingredients, is currently sold in vending machines in the campus of Chulalongkorn University. They are also available via Facebook and messaging app LINE.
Describing it as a combination of traditional and modern medicines, one of the creators of the product, Dr. Chanchai Boonla, assistant professor at the department of Biochemistry at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Medicine, explained that the active ingredients worked via a number of mechanisms.
Inadequate water intake, decreased urinary citrate excretion, and increased oxidative stress are the three main causes of urinary stone formation and the product works by addressing each of these causes.
For example, citrate, the modern medicine component of the product, could prevent calcium and oxalate – the key factors behind urinary stones formation – from coming together.
In clinical settings, patients are usually prescribed potassium citrate for urinary problems.
However, unlike potassium citrate, the product has not shown to produce side effects such as gastrointestinal discomfort in humans, Dr. Boonla told NutraIngredients-Asia.
On the other hand, banana stem extract, the traditional medicine component of the product, works by producing the diuretic effect, reducing the formation of oxalate, and prevents the premature ageing of kidney cells that occur due to the presence of urinary stones.
Blue pea flower provides not only colour to the powder product, but the researchers also found that it could act as an antioxidant.
“We recommend taking two sachets each day. The dose of citrate in each sachet of HydroZitLa is equivalent to that of the potassium citrate medication prescribed by doctors,” Dr. Boonla said.
The product could be consumed as a powder beverage or smoothie.
Aside from Dr. Boonla, assistant professor Dr. Nattida Chotechuang from the department of Biochemistry at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Medicine was also involved in the product development.
Others who were involved include master’s and doctoral degree students Bundit Prachapiban and Natcha Madared.
Currently, the product, which is made by a contract manufacturer, is priced at about THB$50 to THB$60 (US$1.30 – US$1.60). However, the goal is to make it more affordable so as to cater to consumers who are earning a lower income.
The inspiration behind the product comes from Dr. Boonla’s research expertise in kidney stone formation and disease for the past 15 years.
“We want to bring out something new and innovative.
“The medicines used to treat urinary stone has been in use for the past 30 to 50 years, there is nothing new and most treatments also involve surgery, which however, may help to remove the stones, but not the cause behind the formation of the stones,” Dr. Boonla said.
He decided to use banana stem extract as a key ingredient based on the Ayurvedic traditional medicine system, where banana stem extract was used for treating urinary stones.
Thailand is also a rich producer of banana and after each harvest, banana stems are regarded as an agricultural waste that are then used as animal feed.
As such, Dr. Boonla sees it as a chance to upcycle banana stem extracts through his product formulation.
The formula is currently pending patent.
The target audience
There are three groups of consumers that Dr. Boonla hopes to help through the product.
The first group consists of patients detected with urinary stones and are awaiting surgery.
“It usually takes three to four months for their surgery appointment to come. While waiting, they can take the product to reduce or even remove the stones.”
The second group consists of patients who had undergone surgery, who can consume the product as part of their recovery.
The last group consists of healthy individuals who want to reduce their risk of urinary stones formation, especially when they have family members who already suffer from the problem.
So far, the team has conducted in vitro and in vivo studies using the formula.
Writing in Nature, the team reported that the formula has inhibited oxidative stress and calcium oxalate formation in both in vitro and in vivo settings.
The formula was also shown to have delayed the onset of ageing in human kidney cells.
At the moment, the team is conducting phase I and II clinical trials to validate its benefits in humans and is seeking investors to fund the trials.
Following which, they plan to apply for health benefit claims with the Thai FDA using results from the trials.