By The Nation
“Food, drugs, dietary supplements, no matter how great the claim, if they dissolve upon entry into the body before they can be absorbed, they are useless”, said Dr Teerapong Yata of the biochemistry unit of the Department of Physiology, Faculty of Veterinary Science, Chulalongkorn University. For this reason, he has developed biorobots to deliver herbs to solve this problem.
“We call this nutrition innovation 'robots', due to their ingenious mechanisms that can release the polymers covering the food surface in a timely manner to allow the intestinal wall to absorb nutrients or active ingredients that the body needs. This helps reduce the loss of nutrients during the digestive process when some nutrients may be destroyed by gastric acids,” Dr Teerapong said on his invention.
The key technology behind the microscopic robots is to coat the nutrients and active ingredients with nanoparticles by microencapsulation and nanoencapsulation. This technology prevents the nutrients from being destroyed during the digestive process in the stomach.
The materials used for the biorobots are natural polymers, including seaweed, shrimp and crab shells. These materials are inexpensive and safe for human and animal consumption. They are also biodegradable. The biorobots are being used to coat herbs like turmeric, Centella asiatica, black sesame, and cordyceps, he said.
Chulalongkorn University has already patented the biorobots with the Department of Intellectual Property. Today, biorobots are used in the food industry, especially in health foods, or functional foods that have added antioxidants or vitamins –- a trend of the future.
“Consumers will benefit from biorobots, by receiving important nutrients that can be absorbed effectively, eliminating the need to consume a large number of supplements that can adversely affect the liver,” Dr Teerapong added.
Biorobots are also used in animal feed, for instance in the case of antibiotic-resistant animals nano-coating is used in herbs such as essential oil, timed to activate at the end of the animals’ large intestine, which is full of pathogens.
Dr Teeraphong said that “biorobots would also benefit owners of Thai herbs businesses needing to differentiate themselves from their competitors.”