Chitosan and lecithin combo could nano-encapsulate: Study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nizo food research Nanotechnology Journal of food science

Combining chitosan and modified lecithin could offer interesting nano-encapsulators for a variety of ingredients, according to a new study from Japan.

The spontaneous self-assembly of the ingredients into stable nanoparticles was investigated and encapsulation of ingredients was as much as 63 per cent in some cases, according to results published in the Journal of Food Science​.

“The possibilities to lyophilize [freeze-dry] and concentrate the nanoparticle suspensions offer yet another attractive alternative for its utilization in food … besides its highly desirable biocompatible and nontoxic nature,”​ wrote the researchers from University of Tsukuba and the National Food Research Institute.

At this year’s IFT in New Orleans, Professor Kees de Kruif from NIZO Food Research told FoodNavigator that he sees a lot of potential in exploiting protein's natural tendency to self-assembly into micelles or nanotubes.

"Self-assembling of proteins is common. In fact, it's more of a rule than an exception. If we can manipulate this self-assembling of proteins at the nanoscale, I see a big future for it,"​ said Professor de Kruif.

The new research taps into this field, and looked at the formation of nanoparticles via the self-assembly of modified lecithin (ML) and chitosan (CHI).

The Japanese researchers produced nanoparticles that ranged in size from 123 to 350 nm. The particles “exhibited excellent stability at over an extended pH (pHs 3 to 6) and ionic strength range,”​ wrote the researchers.

Dextran-fluorescein isothiocyanate, bovine serum albumin, and Coomassie brilliant blue were used as model compounds to test the ability of the self-assembled nano-particles to encapsulate ingredients with no charge (nonionic), or a positive and negative charge, respectively. Encapsulation efficiency ranged from 8.7 to 62.7 per cent.

“In addition, model water-soluble compounds could be entrapped within the nanoparticles at fairly good efficiency,”​ added the researchers.


According to organisers of the recent Nano and Microtechnologies in the Food & Healthfood Industries conference in Amsterdam, the application of nanotechnology and nanoparticles in food are emerging rapidly.

Some analysts predict that nanotechnology will be incorporated into 16.4bn worth of food products by 2010.

However enthusiasm over the rate of progress and the possibilities is being tempered by concerns over possible downsides of the science of the miniscule, stated the Institute of Nanotechnology.

Source: Journal of Food Science​Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2008.00985.x“Formation of Biocompatible Nanoparticles via the Self-Assembly of Chitosan and Modified Lecithin”​Authors: A.M. Chuah, T. Kuroiwa, S. Ichikawa, I. Kobayashi, M. Nakajima

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