A multidisciplinary PhD project is offered at the School of Chemical Engineering, University of Birmingham, aiming to characterise apitoxin (bee venom) and develop methods for its collection and processing in cosmetic and pharmaceutical applications.
Bees are key to agricultural resilience and food security because production of food depends on pollination. Furthermore, apiculture presents a range of added value by-products such as bee venom, pollen, honey, royal jelly. In particular, honey bee venom (apitoxin) has been widely used in cosmetic industry, pharmaceutical applications (antimicrobial, allergic desensitisation, treatment of diseases, rheumatoid arthritis etc.) and recently food supplements.
Apitoxin consists of 88% water and the remaining 12% contains active substances. These include peptides, enzymes, active amines, sugars, lipids and amino acids. Melittin, a polypeptide making up most of the dry weight of bee venom, is promising anti-inflammatory agent with reported therapeutic effects against several inflammatory diseases including skin inflammation, neuroinflammation, atherosclerosis, arthritis, liver inflammation, antibacterial, antiviral and cell growth inhibition. Recent research demonstrated its effect on apoptosis of different cancer cell lines and the use of nano-particles for safely and effectively delivering melittin against HIV. Phospholipase A2 presents immunogenic potential, antibacterial and anticoagulant action. Other components which are present in apitoxin have not been fully characterised or investigated, especially regarding their antimicrobial effectiveness and treating infections.
Furthermore, apitoxin collection and processing involves extensive drying which induces significant quality degradation, and loss of volatile fractions, the properties of which are unknown. Bee venom needs to be further characterised for understanding its full composition and properties of components. Nowadays, novel materials and technologies can be employed for advancing the collection of apitoxin and/or individual components and delivery in pharmaceutical and cosmetic formulations.
The objectives of this project will be to (i) optimise the collection and processing procedure of apitoxin including its full understanding of composition and variability (ii) apply systems approaches for exploring the effectiveness of existing and novel components against infection (iii) apply bioprocess engineering tools to develop pharmaceutical and cosmetic formulations for encapsulation and delivery of apitoxin tailored to the site of delivery (internal, trauma, wounds etc.) and application (antibacterial, antifungal, biofilm etc.).
The project will be highly multidisciplinary. The research is poised on the intersection between chemical engineering, formulation, material sciences and biological sciences.
Informal enquiries should be directed to: Dr Kostas Gkatzionis: [email protected]
Applicants require a 2:1 or higher in a related subject area.