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In vitro assay-guided Identification of Functional Food and Nutraceuticals from Sri Lankan Plant Products

NRC Grant:  14-013

Dr. V.Y. Waisundara
Institute of Fundamental Studies
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Area of Research:  Food & Nutrition
Status:   Ongoing



The objective of this project is to use and establish Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells (HUVECs) as a high-throughput screening method, along with antioxidant measurements such as the ORAC and DPPH radical scavenging assays and the -amylase inhibitory to accomplish the following:

a) select plant leaf extracts with high antioxidant activity and -amylase inhibitory activity

b) characterization of the compounds present in the leaf extracts

c) screen for bioactive compounds in the plant extracts which are responsible for the high antioxidant activity and -amylase inhibitory activity

d) promotion of the plant products with the antioxidant activity to the masses as dietery means of disease prevention and containment


The objective of this proposed study is to identify and appraise selected plants which have been incorporated into the typical diet of Sri Lankans as potential sources of antioxidants and alpha-amylase inhibitors, thereby ascertaining their role as functional food with the potential of their bioactives being developed into nutraceuticals. The rationale for the proposal is the relative lack of systematically studied in vivo and in vitro scientific evidence on local plant products. The highlight of the proposed project is the establishment of a cell culture model which has been stressed with an excess glucose medium, thereby generating free radicals. Exposure of the cells to the selected plant products followed by assessment of the free radical concentration using a fluorescence probe will essentially reduce the complexity of the in vitro assessment and scientifically sound results can be easily obtained. This assay method is a novelty and could be carried out in a high-throughput manner, cutting down experimental costs and providing rapid analyses. This cell culture model is versatile and can be used to measure the free radical scavenging potential of any type of plant product. Successful completion of the project would result in the identification and isolation of bioactives which can be developed into nutraceuticals or incorporated into food products. For these purposes, industrial support will have to be sought from pharmaceutical companies and/or food companies. The identification and isolation can also result in the generation of intellectual property, where its commercialization will require industrial support as well.