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Hong Kong Scientists Find Novel Way to Improve DHA Absorption

Jan 31, 2019     Email"> PrintText Size

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University Wednesday announced findings on its novel nano-encapsulation technology for optimizing absorption of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which may also be applied to enhance the effectiveness of drugs for treating brain diseases like dementia.

DHA, a type of Omega-3 fatty acid naturally found in breast milk and fish oil, is an important nutrient for the development and function of brain, which can be primarily obtained from diet. Pregnant women, young children, or cancer patients, sometimes are suggested to take DHA supplements.

However, given that DHA is highly unsaturated and is vulnerable to oxidation and degradation under acid conditions, it is uncertain that the intake of DHA through supplementation will be effectively delivered and absorbed in vivo.

The research, conducted by the university's Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology (ABCT), aimed to address the delivery and absorption issues of DHA that affect its potency and efficacy.

The research team innovated a nano-encapsulation technology to protect DHA from oxidation. The team used Zein, an edible corn protein, as the encapsulation material to mimic milk fat globule membrane. The nano-encapsulation forms a core-shell structure to protect DHA in fish oil throughout gastric digestion and facilitate DHA absorption in brain, intestine and placenta.

In two groups of maternal mice, the team fed them with normal fish oil and nano-encapsulated fish oil respectively. The result shows that the DHA concentration in the duodenum of the nano-encapsulated group is significantly higher than that of the normal group, implying that DHA was being protected by the encapsulation structure from oxidation and degradation under stomach's acidic conditions.

Also, the DHA contents in the brain of the nano-encapsulated group were significantly higher, which indicates that DHA was delivered to the brain of the nano-encapsulated group more effectively as the challenge of the blood-brain barrier was overcome.

Wang Yi, assistant professor of ABCT who led the research, said that the team innovated the nano-encapsulation technology, which is proven to be an effective technology to protect DHA from oxidation in vivo, thus enhancing the absorption and efficacy of DHA.

The findings also indicated that the technology can help overcome blood-brain barrier in DHA delivery. "We therefore believe that the technology could be further applied to enhance the efficiency of drug delivery for the brain, such as those for patients with dementia or Alzheimer's disease," Wang added. (Xinhua)

(Editor: LIU Jia)

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