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Development of hydrogels–based delivery systems for lipophilic bioactive components (RDF19/HLS/AS/BENLOCH-TINOCO)

Project Description

There is a genuine interest in the incorporation of lipophilic bioactive compounds into food products, given the relevant role that they play as natural pigments (e.g. β-carotene), vitamins (e.g. vitamin E) and/or phytochemicals (e.g. astaxanthin). The utilisation of these components for food applications provides a wide range of potential opportunities, such as for example, their use as plausible replacements for artificial colourants or to promote human health and wellness, in view of their demonstrated ability to reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases and enhance the immune system performance. However, some of the structural features of these components, such as extended hydrocarbon backbones and high degree of unsaturation, frequently lead to low water-solubility, poor chemical stability and low bioaccessbility. This compromises and restricts the efficacy of their use and, consequently, makes their direct incorporation into a number of foods and beverages an unviable option.

Encapsulation of lipophilic bioactive components in structurally engineered delivery systems is a tangible method to facilitate their addition into a range of food matrices and, at the same time, preserve their biological activity, throughout processing and storage, and promote a controlled release at the appropriate site of action within the human body. The development of biopolymer-based hydrogels that act as vehicles for lipophilic compounds represents a low-cost and food-grade alternative for food applications that can be produced with easily scalable processes and without the need of synthesised materials, and allows us to address the technological challenges related to the delivery, protection and release of these components.

This PhD project will involve the design and development of protein and/or polysaccharide-based hydrogels that will act as delivery systems of lipophilic bioactive components for food applications, to improve their stability to food processing and storage and allow their controlled release at targeted areas of the gastrointestinal tract.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: All applications must include a covering letter (up to 1000 words maximum) including why you are interested in this PhD, a summary of the relevant experience you can bring to this project and of your understanding of this subject area with relevant references (beyond the information already provided in the advert).

Deadline for applications: Friday 25 January 2019

Start Date: 1 October 2019

Northumbria University is an equal opportunities provider and in welcoming applications for studentships from all sectors of the community we strongly encourage applications from women and under-represented groups.

Faculty: Health and Life Sciences
Department: Applied Sciences
Principal Supervisor: Dr Maria Benlloch Tinoco, co-supervisor Prof John R Dean

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Home/EU students where a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2018/19, this is £14,777 pa) and full fees.


Benlloch-Tinoco, M., Kaulmann, A., Corte-Real, J., Rodrigo, D., Martínez-Navarrete, N., & Bohn, T. (2015). Chlorophylls and carotenoids of kiwifruit puree are affected similarly or less by microwave than by conventional heat processing and storage. Food chemistry, 187, 254-262.

Benlloch-Tinoco, M., Igual, M., Rodrigo, D., & Martínez-Navarrete, N. (2015). Superiority of microwaves over conventional heating to preserve shelf-life and quality of kiwifruit puree. Food control, 50, 620-629.

Benlloch-Tinoco, M., Moraga, G., del Mar Camacho, M., & Martínez-Navarrete, N. (2013). Combined drying technologies for high-quality kiwifruit powder production. Food and Bioprocess Technology, 6(12), 3544-3553.

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