Researchers from the Centre for Biomedical Technology at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (CTB-UPM) and the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) have turned apple waste into a biocompatible, 3D printable material that could be used to combat osteoporosis, arthritis, and osteoarthritis.
Researchers in Spain say apple waste could be used to fight common diseases
It’s a scientifically proven fact that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but now it seems that the popular fruit could be used to fight disease in a more advanced way than simply providing vitamins and nutrients. Researchers in Spain have managed to create biocompatible materials made from agri-food waste, with cheap and abundant apple pomace proving to be the most useful substance of the lot.
The researchers say that these biocompatible materials could be used as 3D scaffolds for bone and cartilage regeneration, and could therefore prove useful in regenerative medicine for diseases such as osteoporosis, arthritis, and osteoarthritis. These bone and joint diseases, most prevalent in older people, are becoming more and more of a burden for the healthcare industry as the average age of the population increases.
Apple pomace, the pulpy residue left after an apple has been juiced, is available in no short supply. Finding useful things to do with it, however, has been somewhat tricky: once juice has been extracted from an apple, the remaining dry pomace is generally only used for compost or as animal feed. But the new research carried out in Spain suggests that this natural substance could, in fact, be used to treat diseases.
In the study carried out by CTB-UPM and CSIC researchers, different molecules, including antioxidants and pectin, were extracted from the apple pomace. Both of these molecules have medical value (with pectin often used in anti-tumor drugs) and can therefore be harvested and stored. Excitingly, however, the researchers were also able to make use of the remaining waste, engineering it into a biomaterial with a porosity and texture suitable for use in tissue engineering.
The researchers used the processed apple waste to grow cells—in this case, osteoblasts and chondrocytes, both of which can be used for the regeneration of bone and cartilage tissues. The success of the study showed that apple waste could have serious value for the medical industry: products used for similar purposes can cost over $100 per gram, while the apple waste costs barely that amount per ton.
Apple pomace is what remains after apples have been turned into juice or cider
Now they have proven the viability of using apple waste for 3D cell scaffolds, the researchers are working on ways to 3D print the material into precisely controlled shapes. This could enable them to produce bone and cartilage tissue in particular shapes and sizes to treat sufferers of osteoporosis, arthritis, and osteoarthritis.
“With this approach we achieve a double goal, firstly using waste as a renewable raw material of high value and chemical diversity, and secondly, to reduce the impact of such waste accumulation on the environment,” said Milagro Ramos, one of the researchers on the study.
The research, titled “Multivalorization of apple pomace towards materials and chemicals. Waste to wealth,” has been published in the Journal of Cleaner Production.