If you're like me, you've never heard about CoQ10 before today. I've discovered that this coenzyme, also known as ubiquinone, is a substance that's found in every cell of our bodies and as vital to our survival as vitamin C. Even if we're able to create our own CoQ10, our production decreases when we get older. This is why U.S. chemists are planning to use nanotechnology processes to add this enzyme to our regular diet. The team wants to put CoQ10 and other dietary supplements into the water we drink. Even if the technology is almost ready, I guess many years will be necessary before the regulation authorities allow this addition to our bottles of water. But read more...
You can see above a photo of Bruce Lipshutz, professor of chemistry at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB), who leads this research project with his group. (Photo credit: George Foulsham, UCSB News Director) Here is a link to a larger version of this picture.
Lipshutz has been working for years about UCSB. "Initially, he retooled the chemistry that would produce the supplement via synthesis instead of fermentation, which is what Japan used to become the world leader in CoQ10 production. But China's entry into the CoQ10 market only a few years ago changed everything." In fact, the price of CoQ10 dropped from $1,600 per kilo to $400 in the last 30 years. And it's already available. "At Costco or drug stores, you can buy CoQ10 formulated into softgels that deliver the nutrient in various strengths. It's marketed as helping to provide a boost in energy as well as a healthy heart. But, Lipshutz notes, you absorb only 10-15 percent of CoQ10 in the softgel form. How, he asked, could this become more available and bioefficient?"
With the help of his research group, he found the answer, which was to use nanotechnology. "'We do it with nano-micelle-forming technology,' Lipshutz said. He starts by putting a known, inexpensive molecule called PTS into water, which spontaneously forms a nanosphere about 25 nanometers in diameter. This sphere has a lipophilic portion tied to a hydrophilic portion through a linker. The lipophilic portion, which is actually vitamin E, goes to the center. 'The vitamin E portion associates in the middle with itself because it doesn't have any solubility, any energy-lowering interactions, with the water around it,' Lipshutz said. 'But the external or hydrophilic portion associates with water. So, on the outside is the water-loving portion, while the lipophilic, or grease-loving portion, is on the inside. When you add the CoQ, it says, 'Where would I rather be?' Since like dissolves like, the CoQ10 goes inside the micelle. It's 25 nanometers and it's crystal clear. And, it's stable at room temperature.'"
This research work will be published in Aldrichimica Acta in September 2008. This paper will be co-signed by Subir Ghorai, a post-doctoral researcher in Lipshutz group. The title of this paper to appear should be "Transition Metal Catalyzed Cross-Couplings Going Green: in Water at Room Temperature." In the mean time, you can browse the Lipshutz Group list of publications which includes several papers about CoQ10.
Finally, here are some interesting sources if you want to learn more about the coenzyme Q10.
Sources: University of California at Santa Barbara news release, July 24, 2008; and various websites
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