The CIDAF Technological Center, based in Granada, has developed the "Intesolive" project with very good results , focused on the study of the olive leaf for the production of nutraceuticals with intestinal anti-inflammatory activity.
"Intesolive" -led by the researchers Isabel Borrás and Rosa Quirantes and financed by the Ministry of Economy, Knowledge, Business and University of the Junta de Andalucía- seeks to promote the circular economy and bioeconomy in the olive grove sector, promoting the integral use of the olive leaf for the development of a nutraceutical for patients with inflammatory bowel diseases, as reported by Agro-food Cooperatives of Granada, which collaborates in the dissemination of this project.
"The aim is to take advantage of natural compounds from the olive leaf to develop a natural product in capsules that can contribute to the treatment of diseases in which an inflammation of the intestine occurs, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease", highlighted the CIDAF researcher, Isabel Borrás.
The "Intensolive" project started in 2020, driven by two priority objectives in the field of agriculture, sustainability and the improvement of human health. On the one hand, this research aims to contribute to the sustainability of olive cultivation, predominant in Andalusia, providing added value to a co-product as abundant as the leaf, whose volume reaches half a million tons in this region. Currently, this co-product is little used despite the fact that it contains compounds of proven bioactivity with great value for the production of functional foods, cosmetic and pharmaceutical products and animal nutrition.
Secondly, this research center, with extensive experience in the development of functional foods, hopes to contribute to the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, through the development of a safe nutraceutical with powerful anti-inflammatory activity that allows reducing the doses that Patients receive other anti-inflammatory agents such as corticosteroids, which, although highly effective, can have serious side effects with chronic use.
The research began with the formulation of a mixture of olive leaf extracts, rich in the three compounds whose important anti-inflammatory action is supported by different studies, hydroxytyrosol, oleuropein and oleanolic acid. Using the spray-drying technique , the formulated extract was microencapsulated, being protected by a fine film during the gastrointestinal digestion process. Next, the researchers analyzed the resistance, stability and controlled release of the previously microencapsulated extract through in vitro digestions and their status was monitored during the digestion process to ensure that as many of the compounds of interest as possible reached the colon, where they should exert its anti-inflammatory activity.
Subsequently, the intestinal anti-inflammatory activity of the microencapsulated extract was evaluated in an animal model. The main challenge of the project was to elucidate and interpret the mechanism of action of olive leaf compounds against intestinal inflammation. “For this we use metabolomics tools to study the plasma of the animal model where we evaluate the effect of the microencapsulated extract. Given the complexity of this type of samples, it was a very complex task, which we finally solved with good results”, highlighted the CIDAF researcher, Rosa Quirantes.
The last phase of the project focuses on the optimization of the parameters for the pilot-scale production of the microencapsulated extract and the formulation of the nutraceutical in hard gelatin capsules for a future preclinical trial in humans.