Therapeutic tools from canola waste product

| February 9, 2015

Canola is primarily grown for its oil. Saira Hussain shares exciting research results on how the by-product of canola oil might be used for treating a wide range of conditions like diabetes, cancer, hypertension and fat development.

The increased level of canola production in Australia has resulted in an excess of the by-product of canola crushing, termed ‘meal’. Canola meal is currently used as a low-value stock feed; however, if we can increase the value of the canola meal, it will make canola an even more profitable crop for farmers.

If we can discover compounds that can improve human health, we may end up growing canola primarily for the meal rather than the oil.

My research explored the extraction of canola meal using a variety of solvents for the production of natural compounds. In addition, these compounds have been found for their potential use as therapeutic agents in pharmaceutical industry.

We didn’t really know if we were going to find any bioactive compounds in canola; however, others have been successful in identifying useful compounds in other plant species so we thought we would give it a go.

My research is based on the identification and characterization of protease inhibitors and other phytochemicals compounds in canola meal extracts. These extracts exhibited the potential for inhibition of enzyme highly active in cancer, diabetes and also decrease the protein level in fat cells.

What astonished me was to find out phytochemicals in solvent extracts having high antioxidant activity, which seemed to be the source of these therapeutic activities.

Obesity is cause of a metablomic disorder that has links with diabetes, cancer, hypertension and fat development. I carried further research to find out if these extracts can inhibit diabetes and hypertension.

I was really excited to find out that some protease inhibitors and solvent extracts have significant inhibition for enzyme highly active for diabetes and hypertension.

It has now become evident that these extracts have a wide range of pharmaceutical applications.

However, my project needs to be further carried out for invivo studies in humans or animals. Hopefully, soon we will see the use of this work taken up by the medical fraternity.

The Functional Grain Centre is already working with commercial companies to explore potential opportunities to add value to canola meal.

It would be great to one day know that Australian farmers are not only helping to feed the world, but are also helping to keep it healthy.