The healing powers of brown algae investigated in Danish-German project

The FucoSan project in the German-Danish border region investigated how an active ingredient in brown algae can be used in human tissue regeneration, to treat eye diseases, and in cosmetics. The involvement of companies in the region helped ensure the development of innovative products and processes, to create jobs based on sustainable use of the ocean’s resources.

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Fucoidan extract samples used during the FucoSan – Health from the sea project. ©FucoSan (2019) Fucoidan extract samples used during the FucoSan – Health from the sea project. ©FucoSan (2019)

" The plants of the ocean have unimagined powers and effects. Some beneficial effects have even been discovered by accident and now the project FucoSan is on the trail of brown algae, which can help in ophthalmology, bone healing, and cosmetics. "

Alexa Klettner, Head of Laboratory Research Unit, Universitätsklinikum Schleswig-Holstein, Klinik für Ophthalmologie

Brown algae from the Baltic Sea contain a variety of bioactive ingredients, including fucoidans (complex  carbohydrates). Fucoidans have anti-aging properties and can prevent abnormal or excessive formation of blood vessels in the retina or on the cornea. Their antimicrobial properties can help treat bone infections.

The project partners focused on determining how the active ingredients can be used in healing bone fractures, in skin creams, and for treating age-related macular degeneration – a widespread eye disease that is one of the main causes of blindness in Germany and Denmark. The anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of fucoidans may be of benefit in treating this disease.

Anti-ageing properties

Two fucoidan extracts with promising properties for further studies in ophthalmology were discovered and a cosmetic prototype was developed. In a pilot programme, the prototype of a natural anti-ageing skin care product containing fucoidans as an active ingredient was developed. The antioxidant effect of fucoidans may counteract skin ageing.

The project set out to develop economically and ecologically sustainable processes for harvesting or acquiring brown algae.

However, the fucoidans obtained vary greatly in their mode of action, depending on their origin, location, and the type of algae. In the project, different algae species from various regions harvested at different times were investigated.

Fucoidans were extracted and characterised – both chemically and biologically – to identify the most suitable ingredients for various applications. The properties of fucoidans were documented in a database for potential applications.

Interdisciplinary project

The partnership consists of scientific institutions and companies from both sides of the border. The scientific partners work in the fields of biology, chemistry, ophthalmology, pharmacy, orthopaedics, and economics.

The cooperation of science and industry partners in the project helped to identify new products and processes at every point of the innovation value chain. Market analyses were conducted and business models developed.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “FucoSan - Health from the Sea” is EUR 3 636 203, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 2 183 375 through the “Interreg Deutschland-Danmark” Operational Programme for the 2014-2020 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “Cross-border innovation”.

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