Drug delivery process and techniques are limited by the size of the molecule to be delivered. Medications or drugs and supplements like vitamins can be more effectively delivered into the body if an efficient process is employed. A new research may offer just the solution to this quandary. Food scientists from the Penn State University are researching the possibility of enriching starch compounds, like corn starch, with vitamin or drug molecules (or perhaps other such molecules) to create vitamin enriched foods as well as inexpensive controlled-release drugs. Vitamin enriched foods can act as food supplements that are easily available, easily consumed as well as are environment friendly by nature. The toxicity may also be much lower than currently employed methods. The technique employed to create these compounds may also be less expensive than the manufacture of food supplements or medications by other methods.

This technique involves the formation of Spherulites which can be described as semi-crystalline structures. There are two types of spherulites that have been reported. One type of spherulite is formed when a dispersion of starch is heated to 140 degree centigrade in the presence of lipids and then following it with slow cooling (Fanta et al., 2002), (Fanta et al., 2005), (Fanta et al., 2006), (Peterson et al., 2005) and (Shogren et al., 2006). The other type of spherulite is formed when the dispersion of starch is heated above 170 degree centigrade and then rapidly cooled (Nordmark and Ziegler, 2002). This research showed that the molecular structure of starch and proportion of starch fractions can affect the formation, internal structure and thermal properties of the spherulites.

Food sciences Professor Gregory Ziegler along with other researchers like Ursula V. Lay Ma, graduate student, and John D. Floros, Professor, Food Sciences with the support of the Pennsylvania Agricultural Experiment Station developed what can be called, in layman's terms, as food pockets made up of corn starch and fatty acid esters. These food pockets were able to transport vitamins A and C which are fat soluble vitamins, more efficiently into the body. It is known that vitamins can easily be destroyed by the action of heat and acids. So they are protected by the corn starch present in the food pocket as they travel through the body's acidic environment present in the stomach, then allows them to finally be absorbed successfully into the bloodstream. The corn starch food pocket acts like a protective transport system for the molecules like vitamins or other pharmacological molecules, helping them to be delivered to the small intestine, where they can be absorbed without loss of function or activity.

These are some of the findings that have been published in the journal Carbohydrate Polymers by Ursula Lay Ma, Prof. John Floros and Prof. Gregory Ziegler. In their research they have used amylose maize starch to create these food pockets. When the amylose present in the food pockets comes in contact with the fatty acid esters of the vitamin, it resolves into a coil structure with internal hydrophobic nature and outer hydrophilic nature. The vitamin or the medication that is fat soluble in nature moves into the coil and is protected by the hydrophobic internal wall while the hydrophilic outer wall may help in the movement of the food pocket within the body.

Professor Zeigler is of the opinion that the real challenge in the process was getting the ideal mix of hydrophilic and hydrophobic properties. According to him, starch is an ideal substance for delivery of vitamins and drugs because of several reasons. They are commonly available, inexpensive, easily absorbed by the body, are bio degradable.

It seems to be a more effective method than the current industry standard that uses molecules like cyclodextrin complexes which are used to create inclusion complexes for the controlled-release of substances like ibuprofen. Why is it better? The size of the cavity formed by the starch molecules is bigger htan that formed by cyclodextrin. This implies that delivery of molecules that may be larger than that which can be accommodated by current delivery systems may no longer be inhibited by their size.

This technology can be applied even in the cosmetics industry, along with the food and pharma industries.

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