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Material-Independent Nanocoating Antimicrobial Spray Significantly Extends the Shelf Life of Produce
The edible coating on produce has drawn a great deal of attention in the food and agricultural industry. It could not only prolong postharvest shelf life of produce against external changes in the environment but also provide additional nutrients to be useful for human health. However, most versions of the coating have had intrinsic limitations in their practical application. First, highly specific interactions between coating materials and target surfaces are required for a stable and durable coating. Even further, the coating of bulk substrates, such as fruits, is time consuming or is not achievable in the conventional solution-based coating. In this respect, material-independent and rapid coating strategies are highly demanded. The research team led by Professor Insung Choi of the Department of Chemistry developed a sprayable nanocoating technique using plant-derived polyphenol that can be applied to any surface. This new nanocoating process can be completed in seconds to form nanometer-thick films, allowing for the coating of commodity goods, such as shoe insoles and fruits, in a controlled fashion. For example, spray-coated mandarin oranges and strawberries show significantly-prolonged postharvest shelf life, suggesting the practical potential in edible coatings of perishable produce. The technology has been patented and is currently being commercialized for widespread use as a means of preserving produce. The research results have recently been published in Scientific Reports on Aug 1. Polyphenols, a metabolite of photosynthesis, possess several hydroxyl groups and are found in a large number of plants showing excellent antioxidant properties. They have been widely used as a nontoxic food additive and are known to exhibit antibacterial, as well as potential anti-carcinogenic capabilities. Polyphenols can also be used with iron ions, which are naturally found in the body, to form an adhesive complex, which has been used in leather tanning, ink, etc. The research team combined these chemical properties of polyphenol-iron complexes with spray techniques to develop their nanocoating technology. Compared to conventional immersion coating methods, which dip substrates in specialized coating solutions, this spray technique can coat the select areas more quickly. The spray also prevents cross contamination, which is a big concern for immersion methods. The research team has showcased the spray’s ability to coat a variety of different materials, including metals, plastics, glass, as well as textile fabrics. The polyphenol complex has been used to form antifogging films on corrective lenses, as well as antifungal treatments for shoe soles, demonstrating the versatility of their technique. Furthermore, the spray has been used to coat produce with a naturally antibacterial, edible film. The coatings significantly improved the shelf life of tangerines and strawberries, preserving freshness beyond 28 days and 58 hours, respectively. (Uncoated fruit decomposed and became moldy under the same conditions). See the image below. a –I, II: Uncoated and coated tangerines incubated for 14 and 28 days in daily-life settings b –I: Uncoated and coated strawberries incubated for 58 hours in daily-life settings b –II: Statistical investigation of the resulting edibility. Professor Choi said, “Nanocoating technologies are still in their infancy, but they have untapped potential for exciting applications. As we have shown, nanocoatings can be easily adapted for several different uses, and the creative combination of existing nanomaterials and coating methods can synergize to unlock this potential.”
Eggshell-like Cell Encapsulation and Degradation Technology Developed
Some bacteria form endospores on cell walls to protect their DNA in case of nutrient deficiency. When an endospore meets a suitable environment for survival, the cell can revert to the original state from which it can reproduce. The technique that can artificially control such phenomenon was developed by an international team of researchers. At first, a cell is wrapped and preserved like an egg. When the cell is needed, the technique allows the endospore to decompose while it is alive. Future applications for this technique include cell-based biosensor, cell therapy, and biocatalyst processes. Professors Insung Choi and Younghoon Lee from the Department of Chemistry at KAIST as well as and Professor Frank Caruso from the University of Melbourne developed this technique which permits a cell to stay alive by coating it with film on a nanometer scale and then to be decomposed while it is alive. The research finding was published in the November 10th issue of Angewandte Chemie International Edition as the lead article. Cell encapsulation allows researchers to capture a cell in a tight capsule while it is alive. It is highly recognized in cell-based applications where the control of cell stability and cell-division is the biggest issue. Traditional cell encapsulation methods utilized organic film or inorganic capsules that are made of organic film moldings. Although these films tightly closed around the cell, because they were not easily decomposable, it was difficult to apply the method. The research team succeeded in encapsulating each cell in a metal-polyphenol film by mixing tannic acid and iron ion solution with yeast cells. Usually extracted from oak barks or grape peels, tannic acid is a natural substance. It forms a metal-polyphenol film within ten seconds when it meets iron ions due to its high affinity with cells. Cells encapsulated with this film presented high survival rates. Since the film forms quickly in a simple manner, it was possible to obtain large amount of encapsulated cells. The research team also found that the metal-polyphenol film was stable in neutral pH, but is easily degradable under a weak acidic condition. Using this property, they were able to control cell division by restoring the cell to its pre-encapsulated state at a desired moment. Protecting the cell from the external environment like an egg shell, the metal-polyphenol film protected the cell against foreign conditions such as lytic enzymes, extended exposure to UV radiation, and silver nanoparticles. The research indicated that the encapsulated cells had a high survival rate even under extreme environments. Professor Lee said that “not only the cells remain alive during the encapsulation stage, but also they can be protected under extreme environment.” He added, “This is an advanced cell encapsulation technology that allows controlling cell-division of those cells through responsive shell degradation on-demand.” Professor Choi commented, “Although the cell encapsulation technology is still in its infancy, as the technology matures the application of cell-manipulation technology will be actualized.” He highlighted that “it will serve as a breakthrough to problems faced by cell-based applications.” Sponsored by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and the National Research Foundation of Korea, the research was led by two Master’s candidates, Ji Hun Park and Kyung Hwan Kim, under the joint guidance of research professors from KAIST and the University of Melbourne. Figure 1: Lead article of Angewandte Chemie Background: Shows a live native yeast (in green) encapsulated in a metal-polyphenol film (in red) illustrating the vitality of the yeast Front: A native yeast at each encapsulation stage Pictured on the bottom left is a cell prior to encapsulation. Following the red arrow, the native yeast is in purple to show metal-polyphenol film formed around the cell. The cell after the green arrow is a visualization of the degradation of the film in weak acidic condition. Figure 2: A mimetic diagram of cell encapsulation with a metal-polyphenol film Top: A native yeast before encapsulation Middle: A native yeast encapsulated with Tannic Acid-Fe (III) Nanoshell – cell-division of the encapsulated cell is controlled by pH and the shell is protected against silver nanoparticle, lytic enzyme, and UV-C Bottom: Shell degradation on-demand depending on pH
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