In the media: From 3D Printing And Wound Healing To Bioplastic And Faux-Cotton, Seaweed Just Keeps On Giving (Forbes.com)
Throughout history, cultures around the globe have enjoyed the nutritional and medical merits of seaweed. In more modern times, these macroalgal plants’ diverse ecological properties have captured scientists’ attention.
*This is an excerpt from a recent Forbes article. The article was first published by Natalie Parletta, forbes.com on 1st April
Algae expert-turned-entrepreneur [iAccelerate resident] Dr. Pia Winberg is exploring the manifold qualities of a unique, endemic species of green Australian seaweed in the genus Ulva – unlocking not only its rich nutritional properties but also its medical potential for printing cartilage and wound healing.
The seaweed’s fibers could further be used to create biodegradable plastic and sustainable cotton replacements. It all comes down to the plant’s complex glycan sugars – specifically, sulfated polysaccharides.
Marine algae are nature’s most abundant plant source of sulfated polysaccharides, including fucans in brown algae (Phaeophyta), carrageenans in red algae (Rhodophyta), and ulvans in green algae (Chlorophyta).
These gel-like glycans are large molecules with biological properties that carry many health benefits attributed to their antioxidant, anticoagulant, antiviral and anti-inflammatory activities.
It turns out the distinctive polysaccharides in Winberg’s green seaweed mimic mammalian connective tissue.
This serendipitous discovery stemmed from a cocktail party chat between Winberg and Gordon Wallace – a professor from the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute at the University of Wollongong where she happens to be affiliated.
Wallace told her he uses 3D printing to reconstruct soft tissue, using compounds like alginate from brown algae. Winberg said, “Oh you’re a seaweed scientist then.”