Finding new sources of omega-3 oils
Omega-3 oils, also known as long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA), are highly sought after for their human health benefits such as cardiovascular protection and improved cognitive development and function, as well as for use in animal nutrition and medical applications.
Originally sourced from fish, growing concerns with food security, fish stocks, industrial fishing and pollutants in some fish oils have led to increased interest in alternative sources of omega-3 oils, including microalgae, bacteria, fungi, and yeasts.
Microalgae are the primary source of omega-3 LC-PUFA in the marine food chain and fish obtain omega-3 LC-PUFA from microalgae through their diet. Microalgae offer us a direct and renewable source of these valuable oils.
We are evaluating microalgae strains from our collection for their potential as single cell sources of omega-3 oils. We have also explored the diversity of our microalgae to discover the genes responsible for biosynthesis of the LC-PUFA EPA (ecosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
New crops with omega-3 oils
Photosynthetic microalgae from classes such as the Eustimatophyceae (e.g. Nannochloropsis) and the Prymesiophyceae (e.g. Pavlova) are good sources of EPA, while dinoflagellates are high producers of DHA. Heterotrophic thraustochytrids (e.g. Schizochytrium) that use carbon as an energy source to grow can be high producers of both EPA and DHA and can be scaled up in our Protein Production Facility.
Genes discovered from our microalgae are the basis of new crops that produce omega-3 oils.