Developed by microbiologists at Oregon State University for a patented and commercial application as a dairy and food thickener, the scientists believe it could have ramifications for a number of other industries because of its probiotic properties.
Categorized as a polymer, the newly developed product is processed using a natural bacterium that was isolated in Oregon following decades of research.
A polymer with thickening and probiotic properties
That research began in the 1990s when a novel polymer with an ability to thicken milk was discovered by microbiologists at the university.
This polymer is known as Ropy 352 and is produced by a non-disease carrying bacterium.
However, the scientists have recently discovered something interesting about the genetic makeup of the polymer which is pointing to new applications.
A unique gene code
'This is one of many naturally occurring, non-disease-causing bacterial strains my research program isolated and studied for years,' said Janine Trempy, an OSU microbiologist.
'We discovered that this bacterium had a brand-new, never-before reported grouping of genes that code for a unique polymer that naturally thickens milk. In basic research, we've also broadened our understanding of how and why non-disease-causing bacteria produce polymers.'
For food applications, the polymer is said to act as a thickener, while also serving to give food such as yoghurt and sour cream probiotic properties – providing good bacteria for optimum gut health.
Food and cosmetic applications
However, these same properties could also translate into a variety of cosmetic and personal care products, mainly for skin care, thanks to texturizing properties that could thicken creams, lotions and serums.
On top of this, probiotic properties in skin care products is a developing trend, mainly because it has been proven to be effective in treating inflammation, a condition that is often associated with skin aging.