Patent of the Week: A More Functional Freeze-Dried Formulation

Patent of the Week

Lactic acid bacteria has uses in the food and feed industries, as well as in medicine and chemistry applications. The bacteria is used as a source of probiotics and as a functional ingredient in dairy starter cultures for making cheese and yogurt, among other uses.

“Assuring the survival of bacteria after their manufacturing poses a challenge. Freeze-drying, which allows bacteria to survive by lowering the water content of the final product, provides one solution,” according to this week’s patent.

Freeze drying lactic acid bacteria is a challenge, however, and while various solutions have been developed, they often require extensive process re-development and the addition of new and expensive equipment.

Improving the results of these current processes, UChicago researcher Juan de Pablo has patented an improved method that uses starch nanoparticles to prevent pellet collapse and water-induced cell death upon culture revival.

The method can be implemented in existing processes – requiring no new equipment or steps. For food-related applications, the process poses no safety hazards.

Additionally, while the patent mainly describes the method as it relates to freeze-drying lactic acid bacteria, the freeze-dried products may include any biological material. This includes blood, bacteria as well as other microorganisms and cells, body tissues, enzymes, food products, nucleic acids, organs, proteins, semen, vaccines, vesicles, and viruses.

Small scale proof-of-concept studies have been completed and the method is ready for scale-up and implementation.

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// Patent of the Week is a weekly column highlighting research and inventions from University of Chicago faculty.

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