Development of biologically active and chemically stable xanthophylls based on a sustainable esterification of xanthophylls from renewable natural resources




01. October 2021 - 30. September 2024


0,20 FTE


Ilija German Ilić


4.03 Biotechnical sciences / Plant production

Research Organisation:







Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common form of visual impairment in the world, affecting more than 67 million people in the EU alone. Early stages are often asymptomatic and there is no cure or treatment to reverse the course of the disease. Supplementation with two natural xanthophylls, lutein and zeaxanthin, is currently the only effective measure to prevent AMD. This project addresses the stability and bioavailability of xanthophylls and is divided into two interconnected parts.  The first part of the project is dedicated to the search for new renewable sources of xanthophylls and the development of a first green synthetic platform for a sustainable preparation of xanthophyll esters. Different waste materials, such as waste stemming from invasive alien plant species or inedible parts of fruits and vegetables, will be screened for the content of free xanthophylls to identify the most promising source. An optimised synthetic procedure following the 12 basic principles of green chemistry will be developed to convert xanthophylls into esters since no sustainable methods currently exist. Renewable, GRAS, and recyclable materials will be prioritised. The second part of the project aims to solve the problems of xanthophyll stability and bioaccessibility by converting them into esters with different carboxylic acids: aliphatic, aromatic, hydrophilic (charged), (un)saturated, linear, branched, short- and long-chained and others. In-depth characterization of the resulting compounds will identify key structural motifs and chemical mechanisms which determine the chemical stability, bioavailability, antioxidant activity, and potential toxicity of a particular synthesized xanthophyll ester. The comprehensive characterization results will be systematically compiled to form a xanthophyll ester database containing key structure-property relationships related to xanthophyll esters. Finally, the identified lead xanthophyll esters will be incorporated into a suitable model formulation that will demonstrate that rational design of new and bioactive xanthophylls with improved properties is possible, based on the scientific knowledge uncovered in this project.



Bibliographical references, arising directly from the implementation of the project:


Financed by:

Research projects (co)funded by the Slovenian Research Agency.