In a recent study led by Professor Sangkil Lee from Chung-Ang University in South Korea, researchers have explored the potential of tara gum, a natural and biodegradable polymer derived from the seeds of the tara tree, as a sustainable alternative to synthetic plastic in various industries. The study, published in the journal Carbohydrate Polymers, highlights the adaptability of tara gum’s polysaccharides, including galactomannan, which is commonly used in coatings, edible films, and as a stabiliser and thickener in food and drug delivery.
The researchers also examined modification methods, known as grafting, to enhance tara gum’s functionality and its applications in food and drug industries. These modifications include the incorporation of chitosan or other natural polymers, as well as inorganic materials such as copper and zinc nanoparticles, to improve antibacterial properties.
Tara gum’s biocompatibility, biodegradability, and safety make it valuable in industries like food and drug delivery. In the food industry, tara gum and its modified derivatives have been used for biopolymer packaging, monitoring seafood and milk spoilage, gelation agents, short-term protection of food from oxidation, and safeguarding fatty foods. In the pharmaceutical industry, tara gum has been employed for controlled-release of vitamin D-3, antibacterial hydrogel development, iron delivery in both infants and adults, controlled-release of drugs, and restoration of the physiological barrier of the gut.
The study’s lead author, Professor Lee, explained that “the physicochemical property of tara gum and its products can be enhanced using various kinds of monomers, crosslinkers or other polysaccharides.” He added that “the improvement of antibacterial properties might be achieved through the incorporation of chitosan or other natural polymers as well as inorganic materials such as copper and zinc nanoparticles.”
The researchers’ findings suggest that tara gum has significant potential to reduce environmental impact by replacing synthetic plastic with a sustainable alternative. The study’s publication comes at a time when there is growing concern about the environmental impact of synthetic plastic waste and a rising interest in sustainable alternatives derived from natural polymers. As Professor Lee noted: “Various researchers have explored the wide range of applications for its various modified forms. However, this is the first review article on recent advancements in tara gum and its modified materials, and their potential role in food and drug delivery.”
The study’s publication could inspire further research into tara gum’s potential applications for developing various food-related products as well as effective and safe drug formulations to reduce global health risks and costs.