SynthSys

Natural blue food colouring gets eco-friendly production boost

Scientists have developed an environmentally-friendly way of boosting the production and heat stability of a natural blue colouring known as phycocyanin, or spirulina extract

Phycocyanin provides a natural alternative to artificial colourings. Its brilliant blue colour is also attractive to the textile industry, and its anti-oxidant and anti-aging properties are in demand by the nutraceutical and cosmetic industries. 

However, phycocyanin’s use is limited because it is unstable at the higher processing temperatures common across many industries.

To tackle this problem scientists at the University of Edinburgh engineered the blue-green algae Synechocystis, a relative of Spirulina, to produce a more heat stable form of the blue pigment.

The process drastically reduces carbon dioxide emissions and tackles a key bottleneck in scaling up production of phycocyanin, allowing industry to produce higher yields of this heat-stable version of phycocyanin with lower energy costs.

Collaborative work

This research was carried out by Synthsys members in the School of Biological Sciences and the School of Engineering. They are working with Allgo Biosciences, a recently formed company of long-standing industry partner Tantillus Synergy Limited and sister company to ScotBio. 

The study, published in Metabolic Engineering Communications, was funded by UKRI, IBioIC and ScotBio. 

Related Links

Production of thermostable phycocyanin in a mesophilic cyanobacterium, Metabolic Engineering Communications

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Alistair McCormick's Lab