Biological Products to Combat Hypertension

Biological Products to Combat Hypertension

Claudia Villalobos

Applied research is gaining increasing prominence as it focuses on generating knowledge to be used in solving specific societal or industrial problems, thereby fostering the relationship between academia and various productive sectors of goods and services.

Within this perspective and through a virtuous circle involving health and environmental care, as well as the strengthening of the economy of regional producers, scientists from the Instituto Politécnico Nacional (IPN) join efforts to develop biocomposites aimed at improving the treatment of chronic-degenerative diseases, using agricultural-industrial waste and spirulina metabolites.

This project involves collaboration from various disciplines, with experts from institutional networks of Health, Environment, Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology participating. Their efforts not only generate basic knowledge but also focus on multipurpose applied research aimed at mitigating health problems, reducing environmental pollution caused by such waste, and providing an economic alternative for producers.

Agave, whey, and spirulina algae

Compounds derived from agave (agavins), whey (oligopeptides), as well as the phycobiliprotein C-phycocyanin contained in spirulina algae, are of significant importance in this transdisciplinary project, coordinated by Dr. Edgar Cano Europa, affiliated with the Escuela Nacional de Ciencias Biológicas (ENCB).

As part of previous research, Dr. Cano Europa's workgroup demonstrated in animal models (rats) that C-phycocyanin has a therapeutic effect on acute kidney injury, chronic kidney disease, and autoimmune glomerulonephritis, which helps delay renal damage and prevent cardiovascular complications such as systemic arterial hypertension.

Its protective effect is due to its richness in antioxidants that act favorably on vascular endothelium, whose function is to regulate systemic blood flow, which has a beneficial effect on reducing blood pressure. Dr. Cano Europa specified that light favors the degradation of C-phycocyanin, so one of the purposes of this project is to achieve the protection of this molecule with compounds such as agavins, as well as with the oligopeptides contained in whey, thereby preserving its properties and even enhancing them.

Dr. Brenda Hildeliza Camacho Díaz, a researcher at the Center for the Development of Biotic Products (CeProBi), highlighted that the agavins to be used in the project are obtained through a system patented by the IPN. She mentioned that besides acting as protectors of C-phycocyanin, it was proven that their prebiotic action contributes to reducing blood pressure, enriching intestinal microbiota, and consequently helping improve irritable bowel syndrome.

In this regard, she emphasized that the health of the microbiota reflects greater well-being for the organism and logically impacts chronic-degenerative diseases. Thus, better microbiota health correlates with lower levels of arterial hypertension, as well as less presence of allergies, among other diseases.

Regarding whey, Dr. Luz Arcelia García Serrano, an expert from the Centro Interdisciplinario de Investigaciones y Estudios sobre Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo (CIIEMAD), pointed out that whey is a byproduct that is usually disposed of in the environment or drainage, causing corrosion to hydraulic infrastructure, affecting soil chemical structure, farmland, and groundwater contamination. However, when used as a raw material to produce functionalized biological products, it will contribute to reducing the problem.

Regarding residual agave leaves, generated after mezcal distillation, the specialist noted that they are usually dried or burned after the process. Therefore, utilizing these waste products will have a positive impact on environmental and landscape care.

Undoubtedly, the formulation of these polytechnic bioproducts could help reduce environmental pollution by promoting the use of agricultural-industrial waste to generate higher value-added products aimed at solving health problems in Mexico. This strategy would enable the implementation of a sustainable circular economy with monetary benefits for producers and improved population health.

Student Involvement

In addition to generating new knowledge, through this multi-network project, polytechnic scientists contribute to the formation of cutting-edge professional cadres, who are directly involved in the development of frontier science.

One such case is Alejandro Londoño Moreno, a doctoral student in Chemical and Biological Sciences at the ENCB, who, as part of his thesis work, evaluated the effect of C-phycocyanin and agavins in Sprague Dawley rats with chronic kidney disease; in both cases, he confirmed their anti-hypertensive properties.

To conduct the in vivo assays, he divided the rodents into two groups: the first group received increasing doses of C-phycocyanin, and the second group received agavins. From the first week of treatment, he observed anti-hypertensive effects in both groups, and at the end of the five-week experiment, he confirmed that the treatments delayed the natural course of the disease.

Future Plans

Although the results obtained so far are promising, further tests are needed to jointly integrate agavins, C-phycocyanin, and whey oligopeptides to evaluate their compatibility and protective function.

Subsequently, clinical trials will be conducted to confirm the beneficial effect, and based on the results obtained, a patent registration will be initiated to protect the development and generate a co-treatment for chronic-degenerative diseases such as chronic kidney disease, arterial hypertension, and type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Additionally, appropriate channels of linkage will be sought to transfer the technology to the producers who participate in the project and provide researchers with the raw materials (whey and agave residues).

To obtain C-phycocyanin, it is necessary to cultivate spirulina algae. Therefore, to have this raw material, the research group at ENCB is working on installing a small pilot plant to cultivate algae in phyto-bioreactors. After producing biomass under specific conditions, it can be incorporated into the production of the biocomposite and extend its benefits to the population to improve their quality of life.

Synergies

Although specialists have not yet determined whether the new products will be nutraceuticals (dietary supplements), what is clear is that they will contribute all their experience to generate alternatives that in the medium term help to have better control of arterial hypertension and reduce its long-term complications.

Likewise, with the support of national and international collaborators outside of IPN, efforts are being made to describe the pharmacobiological mechanisms by which the beneficial effects of the new products are exerted.

It is undeniable that scientific advances often do not occur at the desired pace; however, it is also a fact that synergies between research groups help to reduce time. Therefore, if the progress continues on the path traveled so far, specialists anticipate that in 7 years, they could make the benefits of these bioproducts available to society, behind which they put their effort to do science with conscience.

IPN Collaborators: Health Network

Environmental Network

Biotechnology and Nanotechnology Network

Students - Dr. Mayela García de Alba (Postdoctoral student at CeProBi)

External Collaborators

Selección Gaceta Politécnica #170. (January 31st, 2024). IPN Imagen Institucional: Read the full magazine in Spanish here.