NASA Research on Microencapsulated Cancer Treatment Delivery

We’ve previously reported on the NASA Microencapsulation Electrostatic Processing System-II experiment (MEPS-II) conducted on the International Space Station. Bringing microencapsulation to space not only provides unique opportunities for research in cancer treatment deliveries, but also such a high-profile application brings much attention to microencapsulation as a process. This new page published by NASA give a quick rundown of the ISS microencapsulation research along with relevant technical references.


This research project was conducted in space in order to make use of the microgravity environment in improving microcapsule production:

“The Microencapsulation Electrostatic Processing System-II experiment (MEPS-II), led by Dr. Dennis Morrison (retired) at NASA Johnson Space Center, was performed on ISS in 2002 and included innovative encapsulation of several different anti-cancer drugs, magnetic triggering particles, and encapsulation of genetically engineered DNA. The experiment system improved on existing microencapsulation technology by using microgravity to modify the fluid mechanics, interfacial behavior, and biological processing methods as compared to the way the microcapsules would be formed in gravity. In effect, the MEPS-II system on ISS combined two immiscible liquids in such a way that surface tension forces (rather than fluid shear) dominated at the interface of the fluids. The significant performance of the space-produced microcapsules as a cancer treatment delivery system (Le Pivert et al. 2004) motivated the development of the Pulse Flow Microencapsulation System (PFMS), which is an Earth-based system that can replicate the quality of the microcapsules created in space.”

Microencapsulated Yeasts Investigated for Wine Production

Funded by the European Commission, the INNOYEAST project aims to increase competitiveness of the European wine industry through the microencapsulation of wine yeast strains. From the press release:

The European project known as INNOYEAST (Innovation and improvement of European wine industry competitiveness by the research and development of native microencapsulated wine yeasts to produce quality wines) has been officially initiated. Led by Bodegas Baigorri, the wine producer from Rioja Alavesa, its scientific direction is by the Leia Foundation, the Alava-based Centre for Technological Development which has long experience in research in the wine producing sector.

The goal of this R+D+i project is cooperation in the competitive development for the whole European wine-producing sector by means of the isolation, selection and microencapsulation of the autochthonous yeasts from several European wine-producing regions (Rioja Alavesa, Bordeaux, Chianti and Vinho verde), in order to foment diversity in and typicality of the different wines made in these areas.

Wine is the end result of the fermentation of grape must – a complex natural microbiological process in which wine yeasts, originally present in the grape, are involved. Yeasts play a highly important role in the final composition and character of the wine. They not only transform the sugars present in the wine into alcohol, but they also cause the natural synthesis of the infinity of aromatic compounds that make up the final aromatic profile of the wine.

All wine producing vineyards currently employ external yeasts with excellent results: they ensure the natural transformation of wine must harvest after harvest, as well as the consumption of the sugars present in the wine, thus avoiding possible microbiological alterations that could alter its aroma. However, these yeasts have been isolated and produced in wine-growing regions that have nothing to do with the wines made from time immemorial in their corresponding wine producing areas, the possible result being that the wines lose the character of the region.

The isolation, selection and use of the yeasts from the vineyards in the Basque province of Alava will thus enable the wine producers of this (Rioja wine) area to have yeasts that express all the character typically inherent of these vineyards in its wines.

The incorporation, moreover, of microencapsulation will provide the autochthonous yeasts great added value. Microencapsulation is an innovative technology that enables the encapsulation of molecules or microorganisms in minute capsules to be employed with numerous advantages in sectors such as foodstuffs or pharmacy.

Research on Encapsulation of Therapeutic Cells Awarded

Researchers from the University of Basque Country have received a Spanish Pharmaceutical award for their research on microencapsulated cell therapies.

From the Basque Research press release:

The team made up of teachers at the Pharmacy Faculty of the University of Basque Country (UPV/EHU), José Luis Pedraz, Gorka Orive, tgether with Rosa María Hernández and Doctor Ainhoa Murua from the Centre for Networked Biomedical Research (CIBER BBN), was awarded the IX Prize of the Spanish Association of Pharmaceutical Law (ASEDEF) in the Innovation section, for research on microencapsulation of medication. ‘Xenogeneic transplantation of erythropoietin-secreting cells immobilized in microcapsules using transient immunosuppression’ was published by the Journal of Controlled Release. ASEDEF grants this award every year in recognition of research work by professionals in the health sector working on medication and its contribution to the health of persons.

The research work undertaken at the Pharmacy Pharmaceutical Technology Laboratory at the UPV/EHU comes under the remit of a line of research by this team. The microencapsulation of cells as a system for the secreting of therapeutic products is a promising technology research into which has been going on for nearly four decades. It involves coating certain cells with biomaterials of a different nature in order to create micrometric-sized particles (always less than 1 millimetre). The encapsulated cells produce therapeutic proteins which, in turn and, once implanted in the organism, are secreted in a controlled and sustained manner. The result is thus highly beneficial in the case of illnesses that require the regular administration of medication. Its clinical application, however, is made difficult because, amongst other things, the encapsulated cells have a short survival period in the long term. Moreover, when cells from other living beings – xenotransplants – are used, in order to resolve the usual scarcity of transplant tissue, problems arise with the encapsulated cells caused by the immunological response of the receptor.

In this award-winning research work, the UPV/EHU researchers implanted encapsulated cells from the muscle tissue of the Fischers rat. These cells produce eritropoyetina (EPO), the protein that facilitates the creation of red blood cells. Short-term immunosuppressor treatment (Tacrolimus, one of the medicines used to reduce the immunological response in transplanted persons) was administered to the rats via intramuscular for 4 weeks).Thanks to this immunosuppressor treatment, the levels of hematocrit in the rats was kept high for a period of time significantly greater than the group that had not received this immunosuppressor treatment – 14 weeks more, in fact.

Encapsulated Topical Rosacea Drug in Testing

This article highlights a new drug, currently submitted for approval by the FDA, that treats the skin condition rosacea using a topical drug encapsulated in a gel:

DER45-EV Gel is a topical product based on Sol-Gel’s patented drug-delivery system that is designed to enhance the efficacy, safety and stability of topical drugs. Sol-Gel’s technology does so by encapsulating the active ingredients in an inert, clear silica microcapsule shell that releases the ingredients in a time-controlled manner.

Rosacea is a common and chronic skin disorder. Affecting mainly fair-skinned, middle-aged and older adults, rosacea is characterized by transient or persistent erythema, papules and pustules. The condition affects more than 14 million Americans and can cause significant psychological, social and occupational problems if left untreated.

Medical News Today quotes Stanley Shapiro, M.D., Sol-Gel’s director of skincare science and technology, as saying, “Sol-Gel’s microcapsulation forms a protective barrier between the drug and the skin, [and] we expect it to reduce irritation when applied to the relatively sensitive skin of rosacea patients.”

New Slimming Garments With Encapsulated Flavors?

This article highlights an unusual new startup that intends to make slimming leggings from textiles embedded with encapsulated extracts, such as green tea and peach:

The three products in her PeachyBody range – pants leggings and high-waisted pants, made in Italy, range in price from £25 to £38 – starting from a size six up to 16. She is confident that her first batch of garments, which she said she couldn’t disclose the volume of for commercial reasons, will be sold out in Debenhams stores across the UK.

Ms Awan, who was born in Caerphilly and now lives in Cardiff, said: “It is an exclusive two-month deal, but I am also in talks with a number of other leading retailers with a view to striking deals in the new year.”

The garments have micro- massaging properties which, Ms Awan says, help to reduce cellulite. With micro-encapsulation technology they also contain general extract ingredients, such as green tea and peach, which are slowly released for moisturising and anti-oxidant purposes.

Male Birth Control Through Microencapsulation?

This article highlights a hormonal birth control formulation in development for men. Some methods of delivery for this drug will employ microcapsules:

“Researchers are now inching closer to discovering a contraceptive pill for men.

Men will soon have the options of a daily oral pill, a patch or gel to be applied to the skin, an injection given every three months or an implant placed under the skin every 12 months as birth control methods.

For the first time, safe, effective and reversible hormonal male contraceptives are expected in the market.

“The technology is there and we know how it would work. In the next few years, it will be in the market,” says Andrea Coviello, who is helping to test several male contraceptives at the Population Centre for Research in Reproduction at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Dr Coviello and her colleagues have found that a male contraceptive that releases testosterone over three months is potentially a safe and practical method of contraception.

The Seattle researchers have been testing a testosterone microcapsule that, they say, will be in the market in three to five year. [sic]”

Microcapsules and Stinky Gym Clothes

This press release from the Hohenstein Institute about scent evaluation of textiles, touches on using microencapsulation for fragrance and antibacterial purposes in garments:

“Manufacturers of clothing worn close to the skin (e.g. sporting attire or outdoor wear, underwear or socks), work wear, personal protective clothing and home textiles, as well as shoes and shoe insoles can now, with the help of odour analysis at Hohenstein, focus their efforts on improving the smell of their products and use data gathered to co-ordinate fibre types, construction characteristics and special finishings to reduce unpleasant odours. The head of the Institute for Hygiene and Biotechnology, Prof. Dr. Dirk Höfer, emphasises, “The condition of various materials can be assessed when they are new, as well as after they’ve been worn, laundered or artificially soiled.” As a result, the processes established at the Hohenstein Institute are not just interesting for textiles designed to reduce odours (antibacterial) or those that emit specific scents (wellness textiles), but also for the laundry detergent and cosmetics’ industries for example, because they can be used for precise analysis of the emission of scents. In addition to micro-capsule finishing, laundering as a rule causes fragrances to gather in textiles. Therefore, independent product comparisons and effects of different washing processes can now be assessed with respect to the smell of the textile.”

Frankenfoods: Is Microencapsulation the Future of Eating?

An article entitled “The Frankenfood that improves you” in UK’s The Times newspaper highlights a number of highly-technological developments in functional foods. Of these, encapsulation technologies play a huge role in their picture of the future of foods.

From the article [emphasis added]:

Imminent slim while you guzzle: pizza and beer to help you lose weight. Drinks, snack bars and foods containing encapsulated liquids that turn to fibre in your stomach, slowing the “transit time” of food through your system and giving an illusion of being full.

Fresh just got better: carton fruit juices and other “fresh” products in packets are often heat-treated to destroy bacteria, though this can damage them. New techniques such as pasteurisation by high pressure or electric pulse will extend shelflife without impairing taste or vitamins. They will also cut down on the need for preservatives.

Where would you like to be served? Nano-capsules, many times narrower than a human hair, allow flavours and other chemicals to be suspended invisibly in fluids. They dissolve and release their contents when they reach your palate, your stomach, or your lower gut, as the manufacturer wishes. It’s a new way of delivering nutrients or medicines, or selling, say, a vinaigrette that never needs shaking.

Yoghurt for the brain: the next incarnation of drinks and foods with probiotics, enzymes and omega-3 oils is yoghurts and juices that claim to boost the health of your eyes, improve alertness or even your “cognitive function”. Already licensed in the US, the labels await approval in Europe.

Playtime bread: several manufacturers are planning micro-encapsulated omega-3 oil in bread and other foods, with no taste contamination, to market as a fortified superbread for children’s sandwiches.

Better bio-degradable packaging: made of lactic acids and vegetable starch, but more attractive.

“Beauty from within”: Nestlé and L’Oréal are selling fruit juices as cosmetics, with the upmarket Glowelle range of “beauty drinks”, delivering antioxidants for skin health. Just launched in East Asia is a Nescafé with collagen in it that promises to fill your wrinkles as it perks you up.

Five years ahead

Intelligent packaging: sensors in the wrappers of fresh meat and veg that will tell the retailer — or you — what the food’s temperature or state of freshness is. They could trigger the release of gases or chemicals such as nano-silver to change the internal climate or kill microbes.

Eat yourself happy or relaxed: the way that the neurotransmitter serotonin works in the brain and the gut, and the links between eating, pleasure and happiness, are one of the most busy areas of “brain food” research. Already in Japan an antistress chocolate, using the hormone GABA, has had huge sales success. Chocolate-cherry chewing gum and other sweets with nano- encapsulated flavourings, set to release at different times. You may be able to choose and preprogramme the gum to release whichever flavours you want.

Mouth-feel and oral wetting: new chemicals alter foods to boost the production of saliva, making things taste juicier or more refreshing, and improve the pleasurable sensation of melting fats. Nestlé leads the research.

You decide what coke is it: reportedly, Coca-Cola has experimented with a carton drink, using micro-encapsulation techniques, that offers the consumer the choice of what colour and flavour is released into the liquid on opening it.

GAT Food Essentials Wins Frost & Sullivan Microencapsulation Award

From Nutraingredients:

Microencapsulation specialist GAT Food Essentials has won the 2009 Frost & Sullivan European Functional Food & Beverage Microencapsulation Technology Innovation Award in recognition of its new water-in-oil-in-water technology.

The proprietary water-in-oil-in-water (wowCAPS) technology offers enhanced protection to functional food ingredients by preventing the oxidation and degradation which can occur during food processing.

This enhances the shelf life of functional food and beverage products while also facilitating a controlled and targeted release of the microencapsulated active ingredient inside the human body, according to a statement from Frost & Sullivan.

Unique technology platform

The company’s research analyst, V Bhuvaneshwari said: “WowCAPS microencapsulation technology is a unique technology platform that enables stabilisation of a wide range of active ingredients, including oils, oil suspensions, and water solubles.

“This innovative microencapsulation technology offers a natural, stable, and safe solution for functional food ingredients.”

The process has been used to microencapsulate ingredients for dairy products, beverages, baked goods and other products including sausages, ham, and sauces.

It can be adapted to a wide range of food ingredients such as PUFAs (omega-3s), nutritional oils, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, among others, said Bhuvaneshwari.

Bitterness of Protein Enrichments Masked by Gelatin Encapsulation

From Foodmagazine:

Bitter-tasting casein hydrolysates may find more applications if spray-dried with gelatine and soy protein isolate, suggests a new study from Brazil. By microencapsulating the protein hydrolysates in a mixture of gelatin and soy protein isolate significant reduced the bitterness of the resulting ingredient.

“[This] has the advantage of being a simple, low cost process, widely explored in the food industry,” explained the researchers from the University of Sao Paolo in the journal Food Hydrocolloids. “Moreover, the product is water and oil compatible, allowing a large number of applications. “Also, soy protein has a high nutritional value, and both proteins used in this study are relatively inexpensive because they are abundantly produced by several countries,” they added.

The researchers used Solae’s Supro soy protein isolate (SPI) and Gelita’s bovine gelatine type B to encapsulate Kerry’s Hyprol casein hydrolysate. The casein ingredient is intended for use as a protein-source in infant products, and for enriching the protein content of food and beverages. With the fear of commodification continuously looming, food manufacturers are turning to microencapsulation technologies as a way of achieving much-needed differentiation and enhancing product value. Many scientific studies have reported promising results for pectin to encapsulate a range of different ingredients.