The team says it has been able to produce pigments and compounds from cell cultures that originated from birch leaves and seeds, with applications for preserving products and inhibiting the growth of harmful microbes.
Cell culture technology is a natural and environmentally friendly production method, the team says.
"Cell cultures provide an opportunity to utilise wood material in a new way,” says Riitta Puupponen-Pimiä, Principal Scientist at VTT.
“By natural means, we can obtain compounds that have not traditionally been associated with birch, such as anthocyanin pigments which belong to the group of red polyphenols."
The VTT team explains that the process uses biotech-assisted production to produce new ingredients for cosmetics.
Biotechnology-assisted production provides many advantages compared to using traditional plant materials, it says.
For one thing, it can guarantee a consistent yield. Plant-based compounds of consistently high quality can be produced for industrial use year-round, free of pollution and plant diseases.
Birch is a good example for the potential of this technology, the team suggests, as birch cell cultures can produce pigments – yellow carotenoids and red anthocyanins – as well as various amino acids important for the skin.
They also produce essential fatty acids for humans, especially linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acids, which play an important role in maintaining the skin’s moisture and elasticity.
The chemical composition of cultured cells is different from the actual plant, and compound production volumes can be influenced by different biotechnological processing methods.
Due to their composition, birch cell cultures have antioxidant properties that can improve the preservation of products and antimicrobial properties, which can influence the microflora of the skin by inhibiting the growth of harmful microbes.
In the cell culture technology developed by VTT, LEDs can greatly increase the amount of red pigment, positively affect the antioxidative properties of cells and increase their antimicrobial activity.
The idea of using birch cell cultures in cosmetics was launched in a project belonging to VTT's Innovative Business from Emerging Technologies Programme.