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Colombia's Golden Triangle—Biodiverse and Market-friendly
By: Nancy Jeffries
Posted: April 27, 2012, from the May 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.
page 4 of 7
At the University of Antioquia, Lucia Atehortúa, coordinator of the biotechnology program, focuses on synthesizing nanoparticles for cosmetic usage and leads a team of 30 biologists, chemists and environmental engineers working on biodiversity, biotechnology and bio-industry.
Both corporate and government sponsorships sustain the program, which explores urban bio-agriculture, cell culture production to produce ingredients in quantity, and the creation of encapsulation techniques for cosmetic and pharmaceutical usage.
Ultimately, the plant cells Atehortúa and team are cultivating will enable them to reproduce plants with nutritional and functional value, notably in skin care, for future applications. “You can create orange juice without oranges by bio-creating the cells,” says Atehortúa, putting the work in more universal terms. “This is particularly important because climate change is [impacting the availability of plants].”
Uncovering the potential of Heliconias oleosa, a species related to banana, is one initiative underway at the university, and it is of special interest for cosmetics. Atehortúa described how the leaves of the plant produce oil with antioxidant properties, which has proven effective for innovation in skin care products—and is also used as a food preservative. The chontaduro (peach palm) fruit, already formulated in a variety of cosmetic products, is also being studied, and the group works with Stevia rebaudiana for applications in cosmetics, microalgae for natural blue pigments, and microalgae polysaccharides for anti-aging and cell repair. Atehortúa cited Sederma, which is working to extract cells from natural plants, for their work with cacoa and orange to extract anti-aging compounds for cosmetics.
Fungi, chitosan aromes from bay leaf and pineapple, and enzymes from specific plants are also proving to have growing applications in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.