New Zealand biotech company Keratec was formed three years ago to commercialize the outcome of 20 years of research funded by the wool growers' consortium into how they could add value to their core commodity by breaking into more industries besides clothing.
At Supply Expo in Anaheim last week it made its debut in the dietary ingredients industry with the launch of Cynatine, a form of soluble keratin derived from the intermediate filament part of wool fiber.
Keratin is normally non-soluble but the company has developed a method of extracting it from wool in a soluble, digestible form by separating wool fiber into its constituent keratin parts without destroying its natural amino acid structure. This means that different parts of the fiber can be used for different kinds of products and applications.
For example, other ingredients are distributed to the cosmetics industry through an exclusive worldwide agreement with Croda International.
Fertram Sigurjonsson, Keratec's VP business development, told NutraIngredients-USA.com that Cynatine is available in powder or liquid form and could be used in supplements, liquid capsules and beverages as an alternative to chondroitin and glucosamine. He cited four main actions, which have been demonstrated in 10 scientific papers on the subject.
The first is the prevention of joint breakdown and building joint resilience by aiding the sulfation of sugar-protein polymers in joints called proteoglycans, which are needed for mobility, strength and compression resistance. Without sulfation, which normally occurs naturally, joints deteriorate; Cynatine generates sulfur to offset this deficiency through the breakdown of cysteine by the enzyme Cysteine dioxygenase (CDO).
CDO also generates taurine which scavenges hypochlorous acid to become taurine-CI, an anti-inflammatory compound lacking in joint sufferers.
While these first two effects are also seen in chondroitin and glucosamine, the company says that by delivering natural cysteine, glycine and glutamic acid, Cynatine works with the body's own antioxidant system to boost levels of glutathione, a naturally-occurring antioxidant that the body cannot fully access when taken as a supplement.
It is also said to protect cells from reactive oxygen stress, as the cysteine feeds them directly with antioxidants.
Unlike chondroitin, which is typically sourced from pig, cow or shark cartilage, Cynatine is suitable for vegetarians since the wool extraction process does not harm the animals. It also avoids the allergy issues which glucasamine may pose, since it is often extracted from shrimp.
Cynatine is initially launching in the US, where Sigurjonsson revealed that the company is already working on contracts with manufacturers of branded products, which are expected to be on shelves in the next six months.
"We expect to gain a substantial market share in the joint health market in the next two years," he said.
In the aftermath of recent revelations about the potential side effects of pain-relieving COX-2 inhibiting drugs, demand for joint health products based on active ingredients from natural sources has soared.
Keratec has moved to protect its discovery by filing for a total of 17 patents for different applications of the wool process, two of which relate specifically to Cynatine.