Scientists from the Universidad Católica del Maule are in Antarctica investigating possible natural alternatives to food additives

Scientists from the Universidad Católica del Maule are in Antarctica investigating possible natural alternatives to food additives

A team led by Dr. Aparna Banerjee, researcher and project manager, is in its first days of sampling on Deception Island, Antarctica. The objective is to obtain samples that contribute to the option of using bioactive polysaccharides as prospective food additives.

By Valentina Luza Carrión / Science in Chile.-From December 21 to January 3, the group of researchers from the Universidad Católica del Norte is on Deception Island, in Antarctica, collecting samples from the geothermal vents found there.

In that place, according to the preliminary log of what the collection days have been, there are six sites that will be inspected in depth: “We have to base ourselves on daily meteorological information and the fumaroles are mostly intertidal”, details Dr. Aparna Banerjee.

The aim of the project is to study the bioactive polysaccharides of extremophile bacteria as potential food additives, and in the process, to investigate the production of bioactive polysaccharides by polyextremophilic fumarole bacteria.

They are currently staying at the Spanish Base Gabriel de Castilla, Dr. Alexis Castillo, Dr. Aparna Banerjee, Maule Advanced Studies Research Center (CIEAM), Maule Catholic University, who guide the professionals in charge.

It would be the first campaign and work on land that they carry out, also accompanied by an international team; Dr. André Antunes: State Key Laboratory of Lunar and Planetary Sciences, Macau University, of Science and Technology (MUST), Macau SAR, China, Dr. Rajesh Sani: South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, United States, Dr. Víctor Parro: Center for Astrobiology (CSIC-INTA), Madrid, Spain.

A detailed collection and a great challenge

There are still days of the campaign, and according to what they say, it has been a constant challenge that, as a team, they have managed to carry out. With long walks, extreme temperatures and constant changes in the environment. Working in Antarctica is not an easy task.

And what is the methodology they are using? According to Aparna, it would specifically deal with statistical optimization, the structural and morphological characterization of polysaccharides, and sequencing approach in order to elucidate polysaccharides as prospective food additives.Image 2 1

And what kind of samples are of interest for it? Mainly water and sediments, with the purpose of analyzing aquatic/sedimentary geochemistry and environmental spatial variability as accurately as possible.

In this sense, a sampling was carried out for metagenomics, metatranscriptomics and analysis of the microbial community and subsequent isolation of culturable polyextremophilic bacteria that produce polysaccharides.

Dr. Aparna Banerjee, from the Maule Advanced Studies Research Center (CIEAM), Maule Catholic University, explains that so far, as a team they are happy with what the sampling has been.

“Many more studies await us as we reach the continent. The environment is extreme in Antarctica, as we all know; windy, cold, cloudy, rainy and sometimes snowy… We also need the logistical support of Spanish military personnel to travel within the island; and often long walks. However, as a team we are gaining experience. And we are grateful to the UCM, the INACH and the Spanish Gabriel de Castilla Base for all their support”, says the scientist.Image 3 1

In this regard, Dr. Alexis Castillo comments that the environment of Deception Island always imposes its rules: “we must adapt daily to be able to face each sample successfully, although sometimes it is not possible to work in the field. The support we have received from the Spanish Base has been essential to move forward with this field campaign, we feel at home!”.

In the remaining five days, the researchers will continue their mission with the goal of analyzing and collecting as many samples as possible.

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Written by Editor TLN

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