PhytochemistryCreating and producing active ingredients from plants
Phytochemical expertise is core to designing active ingredients derived from plants, whether terrestrial or marine, and ensuring their quality during manufacture. The entire development process of an active ingredient is conducted and controlled by the phytochemical analysis of the biomasses involved, whether it comes from our marine biotechnologies, plants such as Centella asiatica or algae, or extracts and fractions from these biomasses.
Phytochemistry is based on bibliographical and ethnobotanical research to identify plants and algae with high potential. This potential is confirmed using phytochemical techniques such as:
- Spectroscopic analyses, e.g. Folin-ciocalteu for polyphenols, or one- and two-dimensional Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) for structural identification,
- Liquid chromatographic techniques, HPTLC, HPLC coupled with various detectors such as diode-array, light scattering, charged aerosol (Corona), and low- and high-resolution mass spectrometers.
These techniques are used throughout a plant-derived active ingredient’s development, from sourcing, to quality control of the final ingredient. Which technique is deployed depends on the purpose of the analysis, and plant’s composition.
Design of active ingredients
Phytochemistry is used to isolate natural organic compounds and perform structural elucidation. For example, phytochemical analysis supported our bioinspiration approach when developing an extract of the red alga Asparagopsis armata, by detecting and identifying secondary metabolites. These showed to be responsible for the original efficacy of the Aspar'Age™ extract on the prevention of contagious cell aging.
In another example during design of a totum extract of Centella asiatica (Taladvance™), secondary metabolites of the flavonoid type, which the plant synthesizes to protect against UV radiation, were visualized by epifluorescence microscopy at the heart of parenchyma cells in the fresh leaf. Molecules from the flavonoid glucuronide family, rare in the plant world, were identified by mass spectrometry as contributing to the active ingredient’s antioxidant effect.
Phytochemistry is also used to study the geographical and seasonal variability of active compounds, in particular to establish best collection practices. For example, in Madagascar the best time for collection is identified by measuring the amount of Centella asiatica’s active compounds.
Phytochemistry helps optimize manufacturing processes to obtain specific molecules of biological interest. For example, in developing an active moisturizing ingredient from the seaside plant Helichrysum stoechas, phytochemical analysis confirmed the role of CeltosomesTM biotechnological process to obtain an active ingredient rich in very polar and apolar compounds, not found in extracts of the plant.
Lastly, phytochemistry is used to study the stability of active ingredients. It is also valuable for safety and toxicological evaluations of active ingredients, for example by identifying any undesirable molecules, helping optimize the process to eliminate them, and controlling their absence in the final ingredient.
Developing the value within plant supply chains
When establishing new plant supply chains, but also with our historical ones, Seppic actively participates in the exchange of know-how to develop value chains. We are setting up partnerships with local universities to strengthen our relations within the Nagoya protocol framework, and to enable in-depth phytochemical research and environmental ecological study of genetic resources for the preservation of biodiversity. This work by university researchers and students allows us to develop local skills.
Phytochemistry to control quality
Phytochemical techniques, and more specifically Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC), are used to control the conformity of plant material, to carry out controls during production, and to guarantee conformity of active ingredients.
We use TLC at certain stages in the manufacture of active ingredients from Centella asiatica. When controlling incoming plant materials, CCM represents a plant’s molecular imprint, attesting to its botanical origin and quality.