Posted on May 13, 2023, 12 p.m.
Researchers from Tel Aviv University and the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute have developed a method to enhance seaweed, doubling the antioxidants, tripling the natural sunscreen quantity, and increasing the unique protective pigments found within it of high medicinal value by tenfold. Their study has been published in the journal Marine Drugs.
“Seaweed, also known as macroalgae, are marine plants that form the basis of the coastal marine ecosystem. The seaweed absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the environment. They purify the water, provide food, habitat, and shelter for numerous species of fish and invertebrates,” says study author and doctoral study Doron Ashkenazi. “Not many are aware of it, however on top of all that, seaweed produce a wide variety of distinct bio-active compounds that are beneficial to humans.”
In order to survive seaweed living in the intertidal zone have developed unique chemical defense mechanisms that produce natural compounds to help them cope with harsh environments that constantly expose them to extreme stress conditions they must endure, such as changes in temperature, fluctuating salinity, nutrient availability, and high levels of solar radiation.
The team cultivated Ulva, Gracilaria, and Hypnea, which are local types of seaweed, alongside fish effluents, and exposed them to various high-stress conditions that they would normally have to endure to examine how the changes affected the concentrations of biomaterials within the seaweed to determine the best approach at enhancing it.
“We developed optimal cultivation conditions and devised a new, clean method to boost the levels of healthy, natural bioactive compounds in seaweed,” explains Ashkenazi. “We essentially created ‘super seaweed’ designed specifically for use in emerging health industries for food and health applications.”
The researchers suggest that their methodology could be applied to the seaweed aquaculture industry on a global scale, and they hope to further enhance seaweed with natural substances that contain health and medical properties in the future. They note that seaweed aquaculture is environmentally friendly, it minimizes excess manmade nutrients and other pollutants and helps to reduce greenhouse gasses while contributing to the field of marine-derived health and medicinal compounds.
“In the future, humanity will focus on creating science-based environmental solutions, such as the one we offer in this study: technologies that promote recycling and sound use of natural resources without overexploiting them. Our study showcases how we can enjoy nature’s services without harming it. Just as the seaweed suggests, we can learn from nature how to preserve it, and thus live and prosper alongside it,” concludes Ashkenazi.
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