Extracting Health-Boosting Compounds from Passion Fruit

Jenn Hoskins
17th April, 2024

Extracting Health-Boosting Compounds from Passion Fruit

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers found a way to extract pectin from passion fruit waste using eco-friendly methods
  • The extracted pectin reduced the survival of colorectal cancer cells in lab tests
  • Modified pectin samples triggered cancer cell death by activating key proteins and processes
Pectin, a type of dietary fiber found in plant cell walls, is gaining attention for its potential health benefits, particularly its role in combating colorectal cancer and reducing inflammation. A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of São Paulo, University Medical Center Groningen, and Wageningen University & Research has made significant strides in understanding and utilizing pectin extracted from an unlikely source: the mesocarp, or albedo, of passion fruit, which is typically discarded as waste[1]. The conventional method of extracting pectin often involves the use of mineral acids, which pose environmental hazards. The research team sought a more eco-friendly approach, employing high-temperature and pressure techniques to extract pectin while assessing the biological effects of the water-soluble fractions obtained. Through various scientific methods such as High-Performance Size-Exclusion Chromatography (HPSEC), High-Performance Anion-Exchange Chromatography (HPAEC), Fourier Transform Infrared-Attenuated Total Reflectance (FTIR-ATR), and Heteronuclear Single Quantum Coherence Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (HSQC-NMR), they identified and confirmed the presence of highly methylated homogalacturonan structures in the extracted pectin. Interestingly, when colorectal cancer cell lines were treated with the extracted pectin samples, researchers observed a reduction in cell viability. Notably, two specific modified samples, referred to as LW-MP3 and LW-MP4, demonstrated the most potent effects in reducing cancer cell survival. Further investigation revealed that these samples were able to enter the cancer cells, as shown by immunofluorescence assays. Moreover, the samples triggered an increase in the expression of the p53 protein, which is known to halt the cell cycle, and activated caspase-9, a marker of apoptosis—a process of programmed cell death—particularly with LW-MP4. The study's findings suggest that the anti-cancer effects are likely due to the hydrolyzed homogalacturonans, which are the main components of the modified pectin samples. This aligns with previous research that has highlighted the importance of pectin's structural characteristics in its biological activity[2]. For example, the degree of methyl-esterification and acetylation are known to influence pectin's interaction with the immune system and its potential to combat diseases. Moreover, the research resonates with earlier studies that have explored the therapeutic potential of modified pectins. One such study found that partially deacetylated and de-esterified pectin from cacao pod husks could activate macrophages—a type of immune cell—to a cytotoxic phenotype, which could have implications for both antimicrobial defense and antitumor activity[3]. Similarly, another study investigated the extraction of pectin from banana peels and found that specific conditions could yield pectins with varying degrees of esterification, which in turn affected their ability to form stable nanoparticles[4]. These nanoparticles could have potential applications in drug delivery systems, including cancer treatment. The recent study not only provides a sustainable method to extract valuable pectin from fruit waste but also adds to the growing body of evidence that supports the role of specific pectin structures in health and disease management. While the study focused on colorectal cancer cells, the implications could extend to other types of cancer and inflammatory diseases. The findings underscore the need for further research, particularly human studies, to fully understand the therapeutic potential of pectin and its various forms. In conclusion, the research conducted by the collaborative team not only offers a greener alternative to pectin extraction but also opens up new avenues for the use of pectin in cancer therapy. As the scientific community continues to unravel the complex interactions between dietary fibers like pectin and human health, the future looks promising for the development of novel treatments derived from what was once considered waste.



Main Study

1) Assessing high-temperature and pressure extraction of bioactive water-soluble polysaccharides from passion fruit mesocarp.

Published 1st July, 2024 (future Journal edition)


Related Studies

2) The effects of different dietary fiber pectin structures on the gastrointestinal immune barrier: impact via gut microbiota and direct effects on immune cells.


3) Modified pectin from Theobroma cacao induces potent pro-inflammatory activity in murine peritoneal macrophage.


4) Evaluation of the physicochemical properties of pectin extracted from Musa paradisiaca banana peels at different pH conditions in the formation of nanoparticles.


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