Cristina M Rocha's Lab

Institution: University of Minho

Featured projects (1)

Technological Alliance to complete the forest and agroindustrial production cycle Reference SOE1/P1/E0123

Featured research (17)

The bioavailability of natural compounds should be assessed through different perspectives. Studying the behaviour of the extracts after digestion is often overlooked but is crucial for success in the development of active food ingredients. Thus, the bioaccessibility of S. nigra (flower and berry) extracts after in vitro gastrointestinal digestion and their effect on toxicity and bioactive potential were studied. The flower extract had a higher content of phenolic compounds, like rutin, chlorogenic acid and rosmarinic acid, while in the berry extract, rutin, resveratrol, ferulic acid and chlorogenic acid were the main phenolic compounds. The effect of the non-digested and digested extracts was significantly different on different cell lines. The IC50 of the normal cell line (L929) was the highest, indicating low toxicity. The IC50 of the cancerous cell lines (HeLa and HT29) was lower, particularly the extract obtained from the flower upon digestion. In the presence of an oxidant agent - tbHP, only the berry extract was able to significantly reduce the formation of ROS in the L929 cell line, while in the HeLa cells, all the extracts were able to reduce ROS formation. The in vivo Artemia salina lethality bioassay demonstrated a dose-dependent effect of extracts, and the berry digested extract induced the lowest mortality rate. The promising results obtained on the chemical and biological evaluation of the extracts indicate that the natural compounds isolated from S. nigra by-products can be used as potential ingredients for functional food formulations and/or as bio-therapeutic agents.
This study examined the influence of ohmic heating (OH), compared to the conventional heating (Conven) and Control (solvent) methods, on the extraction of olive mill leaves. The main extraction parameters were: (i) solvent ratio (aqueous ethanol; 40%, 60%, and 80%, v/v), and (ii) extraction temperature; 45 °C, 55 °C, and 75 °C (for OH and Conven), and room temperature (for Control). The selected response variables were extraction yield (%), total phenolic content (TPC), and antioxidant activity (ABTS and DPPH). The ohmic system, compared to Conven and Control, exhibited the greatest effects (p <0.001) on increasing (i) extraction yield (34.53%) at 75 °C with 80% ethanol, (ii) TPC at 55 °C (42.53, 34.35, 31.63 mg GAE/g extract, with 60%, 40%, and 80% ethanol, respectively), and (iii) antioxidant potency at 75 °C detected by DPPH and ABTS, in the range of 1.21–1.04 mM TE/g, and 0.62–0.48 mM TE/g extract, respectively. Further, there were relatively similar trends in TPC and antioxidant activity (both methods), regardless of solvent ratios, p <0.001. These findings demonstrate the potential of ohmic heating, as a green processing tool, for efficient extraction (15 min) of olive leaves. To date, no literature has described ohmic application for olive leave extraction.
Olive pomace (OP) is the main residue that results from olive oil production. OP is rich in bioactive compounds, including polyphenols, so its use in the treatments of diseases related to oxidative stress, such as cancer, could be considered. The present work aimed to study the biological properties of different OP extracts, obtained by ohmic heating-assisted extraction and conventional heating, using water and 50% ethanol, in the treatment and prevention of colorectal cancer through Caco-2 cell models. Additionally, an in-silico analysis was performed to identify the phenolic intestinal absorption and Caco-2 permeability. The extracts were chemically characterized, and it was found that the Ohmic-hydroethanolic (OH-EtOH) extract had the highest antiproliferative effect, probably due to its higher content of phenolic compounds. The OH-EtOH induced potential modifications in the mitochondrial membrane and led to apoptosis by cell cycle arrest in the G1/S phases with activation of p53 and caspase 3 proteins. In addition, this extract protected the intestine against oxidative stress (ROS) caused by H2O2. Therefore, the bioactive compounds present in OP and recovered by applying a green technology such as ohmic-heating, show promising potential to be used in food, nutraceutical, and biomedical applications, reducing this waste and facilitating the circular economy.
Eggplants contain a multitude of biocompounds with nutritional and/or biological activities. The objective of this work was to study the nutritional, chemical and bioactive value of red eggplant from Rotonda, Italy. Ohmic heating (OH) was compared to conventional heating, as different solvents were used (water, ethanol 30, 50, and 90% and methanol) for biocompounds extraction. Extracts were evaluated for their total phenolic compounds, antioxidant and antibacterial activities, and its toxicity was assessed in cells, L929 and Caco-2. The nutritional characterization of Rotonda's eggplant demonstrated that it is rich in carbohydrates (65%), fiber (12.5%), proteins (13%), lipids (7.6%) and minerals. Potassium is the mineral with the highest concentration in the red eggplant (27.24 mg/g). Phenolic composition of the obtained extracts was dependent on the extraction method, as well as on the solvent. The use of OH method increased the extraction of biocompounds, especially when using 50% of ethanol as solvent. The main phenolic compounds found in the extracts of this eggplant variety were ellagic acid, p-coumaricic acid, epicatechin, narginin, taxifolin and kaempferol. Antioxidant activity was positively correlated with the total amounts of phenolics. Red Eggplant extracts showed activity against Gram-negative bacteria (E. coli and S. enterica), however, they did not demonstrate activity against Gram-positive bacteria. The extracts obtained did not show cytotoxic effects in fibroblast and colorectal studied cells. Ohmic heating is a sustainable technology that increases the extraction yield of biocompounds, with reduced energy consumption and the resulting extracts show low toxicity and high biological activity.
Microalgae are a promising and sustainable ingredient for functional food development, due to their rich nutritional and health-promoting effects. Moreover, microalgae generally contain large amounts of structural biopolymers such as proteins and polysaccharides, which might display interesting technological features and rheological properties. This study aims at unravelling Phaeodactylum tricornutum extracts (PTE) potential role as structuring agents for food applications. Distilled water and a mixture of water/ethanol (75/25, v v⁻¹) were used as solvents. Extracts’ physicochemical properties were analysed regarding protein folding, molecular weight distribution, polymer interactions, and their main functional groups. PTE thermal properties, rheological behaviour, and emulsifying capacities were also evaluated. PTE showed different gelling mechanisms, with 40 °C aqueous purified extracts reporting the strongest gel character. Moreover, 80 °C ethanolic purified extracts showed the greatest emulsifying potential, with an initial emulsification index (EI) of around 90%. This EI decreased to 60% after 10 days, but remained constant for the following 15 days, showing an interesting emulsion stability. Overall, these findings suggest that PTE have a great potential for further application as thickening or emulsifier food ingredients. This diatom revealed to be a valuable source of structurally diverse, technologically active compounds.

Lab head

Cristina M Rocha
  • Centre of Biological Engineering

Members (7)

Zlatina Genisheva
  • University of Minho
Pedro Ferreira Santos
  • University of Minho
Rafaela Augusta De Nunes
  • University of Minho
Sara Gonçalves Pereira
  • University of Minho
Gabriela Matos
  • University of Minho
Catarina Moreira
  • University of Minho
Joana S. Gomes-Dias
Joana S. Gomes-Dias
  • Not confirmed yet