Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Novel treatment of digestive tract disorders

Chitosan, a polysaccharide produced from crustaceans, is available as over-the-counter dietary supplements for hypercholesterolaemia and excessive weight. A European consortium produced new chitosan formulations to improve its uptake, reduce current dosage and extend its potential applications.
Novel treatment of digestive tract disorders
In addition to treatment for hypercholesterolaemia, chitosan is also being considered as a therapy for coeliac disease due to its capacity to sequester the toxic gliadin fraction responsible for gluten intolerance. The chitosan derivative glucosamine is also marketed for osteoarthritis prevention and for promoting healthy joint function.

However, the current formulation does not use the most suitable physical and biochemical form, forcing consumers to take large daily doses. Existing chitosan tablet formulations for hypercholesterolaemia and weight control make use of semi-crystalline chitosan, which is not the best chitosan for collecting lipids and cholesterol in vivo. In order for chitosan to react more effectively with bile acids, it should either reach the stomach as solution or dissolve immediately.

The key objective of the EU-funded Chitosanperos project was to develop new chitosan physical forms and formulations that could be used to prevent and treat diseases and dysfunctions of the digestive system. The rationale of the project was that chitosan had to be put into a special form, increasing its surface area, porosity, solubility and compressibility to facilitate tableting.

Therefore, project scientists developed a method for producing microspheres of chitosan by spray dryer which proved ideal for chitosan tablet production, but was also more appropriate for enrichment of wheat flour. Pasta and bakery products containing chitosan were produced and tested with the aim of making these common foods accessible to coeliac patients.

Volunteers were administered the novel formulations of chitosan and underwent full medical evaluation including monitoring of body weight, blood analysis, assessment of cholesterol and bilirubin plasma levels, and intestinal flora examination. Chitosan treatment, as envisaged, led to weight loss and demonstrated significant benefits when incorporated in a coeliac diet.

Commercial dissemination of Chitosanperos deliverables is expected to significantly impact the dietary supplements market and provide solutions for many sufferers of digestive tract diseases.

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