Development of iron biofortified microalgae biomass for anemic women
Funding Agency: Partially from SANN International College, Nepal.
Globally, anemia affects about one third (32.8%) women of reproductive age (15–49 years) as of 2016 (35.1 % for Nepal). Iron-deficiency contributes to nearly 60% of global anemia. Iron deficiency mainly occurs due to inadequate dietary intake: a diet lacking enough bioavailable iron, chronic blood loss from heavy menstrual bleeding or hookworm infection, and increased iron requirements during growth or pregnancy. Iron deficiency has unpleasant outcomes like fatigue, lethargy, impaired cognitive performance, etc. even in the absence of clinical anemia. The use of synthetic iron supplements or iron-fortified food is the most widespread method applied to alleviate iron-deficiency/anemia. However, synthetic iron supplements have side effects like nausea, constipation or diarrhea, and dark stools; creating hesitancy in users. Additionally, the lack of enough bioavailable iron and altered taste/texture/stability are the critical problems of iron-fortified foods.
The proposed project concept is to investigate microalgae species (esp. Chlorella and Spirulina from diverse habitats of Nepal) for iron content and further enhance their iron accumulation potential. The main aim is to develop microalgae biomass– as a green and sustainable source of iron– containing the bioavailable iron equivalent to one’s recommended dose. We also aim to develop low-cost microalgae cultivation technology/process replicable in local communities, so people can grow their own iron biofortified algae and strengthen their fight against the iron deficiency-related disorders (with special focus on women of reproductive age from chhaupadi goth to urban dwellers).
*The project was selected in Top 50- 2019 Elsevier Foundation Green & Sustainable Chemistry Challenge.
The first phase of the proposed project has been done as a thesis research project by a group of undergraduate students from the Department of Biotechnology, SANN International College, Chabahil Kathmandu (http://www.sann.edu.np/programme).