Encouraging plant biodiversity in the Centre-Val de Loire region for the design of new cosmetic ingredients

[Article paru dans le magazine Expression Cosmétique N°75 – Mai/juin 2022]

Cosmétosciences, a programme funded by the Centre-Val de Loire region, is encouraging partnerships between academics and manufacturers in the cosmetics sector.

Between 2017 and 2020, the Valbiocosm project, backed by the Institute of Organic and Analytical Chemistry (ICOA) and the Molecular Biology Centre (CBM), laid the foundations for a ‘circular’ collaboration, unique in France, made up of four academic laboratories: ICOA UMR 7311, LBLGC, INRAE USC1328 (University of Orléans), CBM UPR4301 (CNRS Orléans) and BBV EA2106 (University of Tours) associated with four socio-economic partners: Botanicosm’ethic, Caudalie, Sederma and the Horticultural Development Committee (CDHRC).

Natural and biotechnological plant sourcing

The first innovation was to optimise the culture conditions of plant biomasses – both ‘natural’ (produced from plants) and ‘biotechnological’ (produced from plant cell culture). The LBLGC team, specialised in the study of the metabolism of plants, worked on the optimisation of sourcing by hydroponics and by aeroponics. At the same time, the BBV laboratory, in association with Sederma and the LBLGC, led the optimisation of biotechnological methods in the development of in vitro cultures of the callus type and cellular suspensions produced from the plant cells of selected plants. This made it possible to develop innovative biotechnological and biomanufacturing in vitro processes. Different plants were selected and in particular the Silybum marianum milk thistle, the Arctium lappa greater burdock, and the Artemisia annua sweet wormwood for the natural sourcing, and the Linum usitatissimum and Linum grandiflorum flax and the Silybum marianum for the biotechnological sourcing.

Eco-friendly extraction approaches

The ICOA has developed eco-friendly extraction approaches – green or biosourced solvents, and advanced technologies such as ultrasound and microwaves. The analysis of many extracts by liquid chromatography coupled with high resolution mass spectrometry (UHPLC-HRMS), followed by bioinformatic data processing and statistical analyses, made it possible to characterise them at molecular level and to establish links between the structure of the metabolites and their biological activity. A comparison of the various profiles obtained depending on the culture conditions that led to the production of varying numbers of active molecules allowed a better understanding of the impact of those conditions on the metabolism of plants, and the optimisation of the culture methods.

Innovative methods of biological objectivation

The latter, and specific micro-RNA in particular, proved to be effective for facilitating the identification of bioactive compounds, and also for attributing new biological properties to them. This biological objectivation was carried out at the CBM, by putting in place a panel of six routinely used tests (safety, regenerating, antioxidant, hydrating, proliferation, protection), supported by a new biological activity screening platform placed under the control of the expression of microRNA-21.

Innovative methods of biological objectivation

One notable point concerns the transfer of the biomass production scale to the greenhouses of the CDHRC, to generate techno-economic data with a view to possible industrial use. The culture methods are easily controlled and adaptable thanks in particular to the setting up and monitoring of culture parameters – temperature, saline supplements, humidity – and depend very little on the climate. The project has demonstrated the feasibility of developing a shorter circuit from the culture of plants to active ingredients that have guaranteed traceability and quality. The methods developed over the 3 years of this project continue to evolve via a scientific network that brings together manufacturers, raw materials producers and academics, and have contributed to the start of new studies.