IIT-G explores use of food resources to develop psychoactive drugs

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The low-cost membrane technology uses agricultural resources to produce psychoactive drugs and anti-aging compounds

Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT-G) researchers have developed a low-cost membrane technology to produce psychoactive drugs and anti-aging compounds from wide range of agricultural resources like camellia sinensis, citrus fruits and peels especially orange peels, berries, ginkgo biloba, parsley, pulses, tea, sea buckthorn and onions.

The technology is patented and developed by Prof. Mihir Kumar Purkait, Head, Centre for the Environment, and Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Guwahati along with his M Tech student V L Dhadge. The low-cost technology doesn’t use any organic solvents and has scope to replace existing costly organic solvent based techniques. It can also be used for continuation mode of operation in industrial scale.

While explaining the process about how the technology works, Prof. Purkait, said, “The developed technology is exclusively pore/particle size based pressure driven membrane separation process. The water extracts of above mentioned plants/fruits/leaves at optimum operating conditions are passed through a specially made cascade membrane units of fabricated with appropriate molecular weight cut off (MWCO) membranes capable of separating targeted flavonoids selectively. Permeate and retentive part from appropriate membrane unit is then fridge dried to get the powdered product. We have synthesized stimuli responsive smart membrane for the selective separation and purification of targeted compound from the mixture of plants or leaves or fruits extract in simple water.”

The health-related benefits of psychoactive drugs (caffeine) and anti-aging compounds (flavonoids) attributed to stimulating detoxification of enzyme activity and inhibition of cell invasion and angiogenesis. Because of medicinal applications, flavonoid components have gained popularity as ingredients in pharmaceutical industry. These are also found in smaller amount in bamboo leaves, grapes, apples, and other natural sources.

India is the largest consumer (20% of the global production) and second largest producer of camellia sinensis. It has been estimated that the global market for flavonoids is expected to reach about 412.4 MT by 2022 from 347.8 MT in 2017 reported in the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India’s Import-Export current statistics. The developed technology will support “Make in India” initiative of the Government of India by producing these compounds in the country.

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