MUSE: Unlocking the potential of selected microalgae strains as sources of functional foods and nutraceuticals

Master Thesis subject (30 ECTS)
Microalgae play an increasing role in cosmaceuticals, nutraceuticals and functional foods, and an increasing number of microalgal species have become established commercial sources of high-value chemicals such as carotenoids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, proteins and other organic molecules. As sources of natural products, microalgae have several advantages over ‘conventional’ feedstocks: 1) higher biodiversity; 2) accumulation/secretion of metabolites to avoid predation or survive abiotic stress; 3) high growth rates in liquid medium; 4) scalability in large-scale production systems; and 5) algal biomass can often be enriched in a desired particular bioactive compound via the manipulation of culture conditions. However, the number of species currently used as feedstocks and the scope of their application to the food industry is rather limited in spite of the enormous biodiversity and biotechnological potential of microalgae. Thus, they represent a unique opportunity to discover novel metabolites and produce known metabolites at lower costs: the rate of finding molecules that were already found on other biological sources is expected to be far lower (<5%) in microalgae than in traditional, better-studied organisms (>90%;3). MUSE aims to unravel the potential of microalgae that have hitherto not been fully exploited as feedstocks for functional foods, food supplements, nutraceuticals and cosmetics. MUSE will target species already produced commercially, and that are generally used in marine hatcheries for rotifer feeding and enrichment, as well as for larva cultivation, or used as sources of high-value molecules and colorants.
Number of students: 
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Contact person email: 
contact person first name: 
Luisa Custódio
Other people involved: 
Luísa Barreira João Varela
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Reference Number: RP-35582