Ahnfeltia plicata, the landlady's wig, is a species of red alga.

Ahnfeltia plicata, the landlady’s wig, is a species of red alga. Courtesy: Gabriele Kothe-Heinrich, Wikipedia.org

Analia Murias reports in Chile’s fis.com that researchers at the University of Santiago de Chile (USACH) are studying three species of macroalgae: Mazzaella laminarioides, Sarcothalia crispata and Ahnfeltia plicata – in the Region of Magallanes – to develop antibacterial patches and gastric juice resistant drugs.

The study, entitled Soluble Algal Polysaccharides from the Magallanes Region, is a project funded by Chile’s Department of Scientific and Technological Research (Dicyt) of the Vice-Rectory for Research, Development and Innovation, and is directed by Betty Matsuhiro, a researcher at the Department of Environmental Sciences of the Faculty of Chemistry and Biology of USACH.

Algal polysaccharides are used primarily in the food industry. “With this new project, the idea is to innovate in the use of this natural resource and develop products with higher added value, which can be used in biomedicine,” said Matsuhiro.

During the first stage of the study, researchers at the University of Magallanes, and at the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity, will be in charge of collecting algae. Later, the polysaccharide extraction, their chemical modification and conjugation with synthetic polymers will be developed.

At a later stage the encapsulation of drugs will be analyzed, according to USACH. An application of the polysaccharides under study is their use to encapsulate drugs and prevent them from disintegrating with the acidity of gastric juices. Since they are biodegradable and biocompatible, polysaccharides are helpful for use with antibacterial drugs.