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Super-eggs
June 27, 2013   
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Researchers from the southwestern city of Wroc³aw have found a way to enrich eggs laid by hens. Although these new, enhanced eggs taste the same as ordinary eggs, they are healthier, the researchers say, because they contain more vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. The researchers also aim to use these new, fortified eggs to obtain dietary supplements useful in preventing and treating diseases such as osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, depression and cancer.

According to Prof. Tadeusz Trziszka from the Wroc³aw University of Environmental and Life Sciences, who managed the work of the researchers in the zl.25 million egg-enrichment project, an egg is a perfect product of nature. It contains a large number of ingredients that can be used in dietary supplements. Such large quantities of these ingredients are not available in any plants or herbs. In addition, a fortified egg subjected to an appropriate enrichment process can provide substances necessary to prevent lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, depression, hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease, researchers say.

Eggs enriched by the Polish researchers contain bioactive substances, including vitamins and polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is necessary for the proper functioning of the brain, heart and the circulatory system.

“In fact, we treat eggs only as a starting point for obtaining substances for the production of dietary supplements,” says Trziszka. “These substances are primarily various phospholipids that are the main structural component of biological membranes. These can be used for the production of dietary supplements useful in fighting Parkinson’s disease, for example. However, in order to make them more effective, it is necessary to combine them with, for instance, vitamins. And this process requires a lot of research,” says Trziszka. “We have already developed calcium preparations that could be used to fight osteoporosis,” says Trziszka.

However, some substances will take much longer to develop, researchers say. One of these is a newly discovered protein complex called Yolkina. The researchers want to use it to treat patients with Alzheimer’s disease, for example. Another such substance is cystatin, which is believed to have an anti-cancer effect. Cystatin must be introduced where there is an inflammation or a cancer trouble spot in the body. Therefore, it serves as a drug rather than a dietary supplement, Trziszka says.

As they work on the new substances, the researchers want to bring animal-derived products to the pharmaceutical market. It is already possible to buy bee products such as royal jelly and honey extracts, but so far there have been no dietary supplements from eggs on the market.

The idea of enriching eggs can sound alarming for organic food lovers, but Trziszka insists that the egg enrichment process is completely natural. The eggs are not modified in any way. The hens are fed with special feed, including substances derived from algae. They are provided with suitable environmental conditions. There can be no mistake in the production process because any such mistake could affect the quality of the eggs, Trziszka says.

Over 20 patent applications have been submitted as a result of the egg-enrichment project, which is officially called Ovocura. Now the obtained substances must undergo a series of tests. The project will take time to produce results. The placing of a dietary supplement on the market takes at least two years, and bringing a new drug to the market may take up to 10 years, experts say.

In all, more than 230 people worked on enriching eggs in Wroc³aw beginning in 2009 as part of a consortium established by the Wroc³aw University of Environmental and Life Sciences and Wroc³aw Medical University. The two universities conducted a joint research and development program in collaboration with members of the Nutribiomed cluster: the Wroc³aw University of Technology, Wroc³aw Technology Park, the Ovopol egg production plant in Nowa Sól, the Tronina chicken breeding enterprise, and the Biochefa pharmaceutical research and production company.

The zl.25 million Ovocura project was completed in the first quarter of this year. It was co-financed by the European Union from its European Regional Development Fund under the Innovative Economy Operational Program.
Olga Majewska
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