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Content archived on 2024-05-27

Integrated technologies for the discovery and development of cosmeceutical agents from plant biodiversity

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Development of cosmeceuticals based on natural products

Concerns exist about potentially harmful chemicals in cosmetics. In response, EU-funded researchers have developed innovative cosmeceutical products using European natural resources and environmentally friendly technologies.

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Cosmeceuticals are a new type of product representing a hybrid between pharmaceuticals for skin diseases and cosmetic products. They are intended to enhance both the health and the beauty of the skin through external application. The aim of the NATPROTEC (Integrated technologies for the discovery and development of cosmeceutical agents from plant biodiversity) project was to investigate the potential of natural products originating from Alpine and Mediterranean regions to be used in novel cosmeceutical products. The global cosmeceutical market is estimated to be worth several billions of euros and is expected to grow rapidly due to increasing longevity of the world's population. Researchers carried out in silico studies on existing compound libraries, searched literature reviews and empirical knowledge to identify promising plants of European origin. After experimental validation, the plant list was finalised and potentially bioactive compounds and extracts submitted for in vitro evaluation. A panel of assays was used to determine the skin-protective and anti-hyperpigmentation effects of the shortlisted compounds/extracts. State-of-the-art techniques used included emerging green extraction methods, such as microwave and supercritical extractions, as well as miniaturised approaches and advanced analytical techniques. Based on the results, the 26 most promising extracts were microfractionated and their skin-protective, anti-hyperpigmentation and anti-ageing properties were re-evaluated. Biological activity of fractions was correlated to specific compounds that were further proceeded to bioevaluation. Project partners developed a liquid chromatography mass spectrometry-based analytical technique to determine the structure of all natural compounds existing in the selected bioactive plant extracts. They also developed methods for studying the physicochemical and passive permeation properties of pure compounds. Among the plants studied, four plants were further studied and, based on their overall profile were distinguished and selected for development. The optimal raw plant material leading to the most promising extracts in terms of biological activity and metabolic profile was selected. Conditions of extraction were optimised, focusing on “green” technologies (SFE-CO2, resins, CPE) and the extracts were forwarded to pilot scale. Formulation technology in combination with market interest depicted an extract as the most appropriate for incorporation into the final cosmeceutical product. A major NATPROTEC objective was to facilitate the transfer of expertise through researcher work placements in different environments. This enabled participants to develop new skills and to build long-lasting collaborations between academic and industry partners. NATPROTEC will also promote the competitiveness of European industries in the area of natural products chemistry and biology with cosmeceutical applications, an emerging field of research and development.


Cosmeceuticals, natural products, environmentally friendly technologies, NATPROTECT, biodiversity, bioactive compounds, anti-ageing

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