Scientists from the University of Plymouth are working alongside Cornish firm Trelonk Molecular Wellbeing to explore the many and varied potential health benefits of plants.
Trelonk has recently unveiled a £1million scientific facility at its site in rural Cornwall, marking the next stage of the relationship between the company and its science partners.
The plant therapy brand will now directly benefit from the research, extraction and analysis that the new equipment will bring, with three state-of-the-art laboratories designated for plant tissue culture, phytochemical extraction and molecular analysis.
The partnership between the University and Trelonk has emerged as a result of academics’ work as part of the £10million Agri-Tech Cornwall initiative.
Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, with match-funding from Cornwall Council, the partnership enabled the University to develop Plant Factory Cornwall, which is using artificial lighting powered by solar energy to create the best possible conditions for fruit and vegetables to flourish.
That led to discussions with Trelonk, and researchers from the University – including Professor of Plant Physiology Mick Fuller and Senior Research Fellow Dr Hail Rihan – are now working in their laboratories on a number of joint projects.
High tech material
At Trelonk Molecular Wellbeing, the team of expert aromacologists, plant scientists and lab technicians will be using both the data and material outputs of the Trelonk laboratories to inform their plant extracted oil formulas.
The new state-of-the-art equipment will ensure Trelonk can continue to improve its precision in selecting the most powerful plant molecules to help relieve some of modern life’s conditions associated with pain, the mind and sleep.
The new central extraction suite at Trelonk includes a supercritical carbon dioxide extractor, which offers an advanced method of extracting bioactive molecules, including terpenes and flavonoids, from plant materials.
The suite also houses a supercritical fluid chromatography (SFC) system and High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) analysers.
By using all three analytical techniques in tandem, the full spectrum of active components of the essential and carrier oils extracted from Trelonk’s crops can be captured and isolated to a single active ingredient.
Chief Operating Officer of Trelonk, Adam Parnall, said: “Having access to unique extraction equipment propels our products into a new global arena and elevates Trelonk Molecular Wellbeing in our field. It’s a huge boost for business, science and innovation in Cornwall and the South West. The ability to analyse our crops at a molecular level enables a deep understanding of the peak yield times for nutraceutical high-value plant molecules. It ensures quality control and succouring validation within the vertical integration model. Pushing our plants and products scientifically is an exciting step forward into the future of plant-based therapies.”
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Jerry Roberts and colleagues from the University were at Trelonk for the new labs’ official launch earlier this month. Professor Roberts said: “The development of these new labs is enormously exciting. I am eager to see how it might enable us to expand our work alongside the team at Trelonk, and I can already see this project has great vision for the future. Working together, there is undoubtedly the potential for us to use plants to produce products which can be used for medical and pharmaceutical purposes and a whole range of other benefits.”
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