Scientists at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology have successfully been able to extract pharmaceutical grade starch from newly improved starch-producing cassava varieties.
Scientists, Dr Yaa Asantewaa Osei together with Prof Ofori Kwakye of the Department of Pharmaceutics, for several years have been selecting native starches of five new cassava varieties developed by the Crops Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Ghana.
The Institute has been using genetic techniques to develop new cassava varieties with high starch content. The scientists utilized the cassava starch in paracetamol and Flagyl tablet formulations.
After several standard tests, they found the tablets had functional properties similar to tablets made from pharmaceutical grade corn starch.
“The tensile strength, crushing strength, and friability of tablets containing of the cassava starches were similar to those containing maize starch BP,” Dr Yaa Asantewaa Osei said.
Interestingly, some of the tablet formulations were able to breakdown faster than those containing maize starch.
“The disintegration efficiency ratio and the disintegration time parameter of the tablets showed that some of the cassava starches had better disintegrant activity than maize starch BP,” the findings contained in the Journal of Pharmaceutics.
She believes the findings provide opportunities for Ghana’s burgeoning economy.
Dr Yaa Asantewaa Osei
“Now we know it’s possible. We can have a farming community planting the improved cassava, a factory extracting the starch and an industry to utilize and this will sell Ghana and Africa,” she hoped.
The scientists are looking forward to a potential industrial collaboration to concretize the results.
“We may have to sit with the industrial players for a company to do some trials and also liaise with Crops Research Institute to give us more quantities so that large quantities of starch can be extracted for upscale trail because most of the work is on the lab-scale bench level,” she recommended.
Starch, its derivatives and modified forms are principally used as binding or thickening agents in pharmaceutical tablet formulations.
They are also included in tablet manufacture with the aim of facilitating the break-up of the compressed tablets into small fragments in water.
When taken orally, the breakdown of the tablets in the stomach enhances the drug absorption.
Corn starch has been one of the principal ingredients in tablet formulation the world over.
Unfortunately, Ghana has been spending millions of dollars importing corn starch from Asia and Europe.
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