Yo, Algae: Take two and call me in the morning

April 10, 2013 |

vitameatavegaminHello friends. Are your algae tired, run-down, listless? Do they poop out at parties? Are they unpopular?

The answer to all your problems is in this little bottle.

Yes, SuperCaliHydroButylEpiSolaDroxy contains epigallocatechin gallate and butylated hydroxyanisole.

Yes, with SuperCaliHydroButylEpiSolaDroxy, your algae can spoon their way to health. All they do is take a great big tablespoonful after every meal.

Mmmmmmm….. It’s so tasty, too! Tastes just like adenosine triphosphate.

So why don’t you join all the thousands of happy peppy algae and get a great big bottle of SuperCaliHydroButylEpiSolaDroxy tomorrow!

That’s Super-cali-hydro-butyl-epi-sola-droxy! (wink).

It doesn’t really take a mash-up of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and the I Love Lucy “Vitametavegamin” episode to tell you that it’s a world turned upside down when researchers start working on therapeutics for algae — but, in fact, they have.

And surprisingly, a research team from the University of California, Davis has not only catalogued the impacts of treating microalgae with 83 different compounds. They’ve found that common antioxidants such as epigallocatechin gallate, found in green tea, and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), a common food preservative – have beneficial impact on overall algae growth and oil production.

Mikey likes it!

In fact. oil production on four strains of microalgae shot up by as much as 85 percent with appropriate therapeutics.

“The basic concept comes from the pharmaceutical industry, and it’s been used for human cells, plants, yeast, but not so far for algae,” relates Annaliese Franz, assistant professor of chemistry and an author of a new paper in Chemical Biology — for work funded under a cooperative research agreement with Chevron Technology Ventures.

“There are many cases where small molecules are having an effect to treat a disease, so it makes sense that if you can affect a pathway in a human for a disease, you can affect a pathway in an algal cell,” Franz added.

Now, you might shake your head and wonder that Chevron is helping to develop a therapeutic regime for underperforming, pooped-out algae. You might also think to yourself — aren’t we supposed to be eating algae to make ourselves more healthy? That’s certainly the premise behind the addition of Spirulina, Chlorella and cyanobacteria to each bottle of Naked Juice’s Green Machine concoction.

The bottom line

What next? Chicken soup for our microbial friends? We’ll have to wait and see — for now, it will be a while before these therapeutics reach commercial scale. For now, the research team is at the half-liter scale in the lab, though the results to date currently show that the new improved algae will be cost effective when scaled up to at least the 50,000 liter pond.

But we can’t wait until the USDA and the FDA take a view on whether therapeutics for microalgae need to be regulated. Talk about upending the concept of Phase 1 clinical trials.

A short video of Annaliese Franz talking about her team’s work (including graduate students Megan Danielewicz, Diana Wong and Lisa Anderson, and undergraduate student Jordan Boothe) is available here:

More on the story.


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