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carotenoids from fruits and vegetables

Health: ENEA develops technology to extract carotenoids for pharmaceutical and nutraceutical applications

Researchers at the ENEA Trisaia Research Center (Matera) have patented a process, easily transferable to manufacturing scale, to extract torularhodin[1] - a carotenoid with anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can be used in nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals production - from red yeasts.

Torularhodin has been reported to neutralize free radicals more efficiently than β-carotene, being effective against breast cancer, prostate cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, as it ameliorates memory dysfunction, oxidative stress and neuroinflammation.

 “The process involves the selective extraction of torularhodin by applying the supercritical CO2 technique[2] in two sequential steps. In the first, by using CO2 as sole solvent, all the carotenoids present in the matrix are extracted with the exception of torularhodin; in the second, the residual matrix is subjected to a further extraction with CO2 added with ethanol, allowing to recover a percentage of torularhodin equal to or greater than 95% of the total carotenoids,” explained Vincenzo Larocca, inventor of the patent with Mario Trupo, Alfredo Ambrico, Maria Martino, Rosaria Alessandra Magarelli, Roberto Balducchi and Anna Spagnoletta at the ENEA Laboratory of Bioproducts and Bioprocesses.

From a circular bioeconomy perspective, large-scale production of torularhodin with this biotechnological process allows to valorise agri-food waste with red yeasts growth and encourages CO2 removal from the atmosphere, in contrast to climate change.

 “Compared to conventional extraction methods, our process does not use chromatographic separation techniques[3], minimizing the use of potentially harmful solvents and avoiding the production of waste, difficult to manage. Furthermore, it is performed at low temperatures, preventing deterioration of thermolabile molecules", concluded Larocca.

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Other archive videos, freely reproducible, are available on request.

For more information please contact:

Vincenzo Larocca, ENEA - Bioproducts and Bioprocesses Laboratory,


[1] It belongs to carotenoids, a class of molecules for which a 3.9% annual compound growth rate (CAGR) is expected, rising to reach a volume of 2.7 billion dollars in 2031.

[2] Extraction technique that uses CO2 as a solvent in specific temperature and pressure conditions, characterized by mixed properties, between the liquid and gaseous states.

[3] Separation processes that exploit the different affinity of the molecules between a mobile phase (solvent) and a stationary phase generally represented by an absorption column.