Gönül Z. Kaletunç, professor in Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering in the College of Food Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and director, Faculty Professional Development Program in the College of Engineering, was awarded a 2023-2024 Fulbright U.S. Specialist grant to the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia to share her expertise on "Advanced technologies in encapsulation of bioactive compounds: Research and academic approach."
From May 7 – June 18, Kaletunç will address introducing the advance food engineering topics into the curriculum on the 2nd level of Bologna Study (Master program). The focus will be predominantly on the advanced encapsulation technologies and the emerging technologies in food process engineering.
During her Fulbright experience in Slovenia, Kaletunç hopes to update and broaden the fundamental knowledge of food processing technologies. She will evaluate the present training program in encapsulation technologies and upgrade it with new topics. Lastly, she will introduce emerging technologies in food process engineering.
The project will focus on utilization of encapsulation of beneficial compounds in pH reversible hydrogels for targeted delivery and controlled release. Hydrogels are produced from alginate/pectin mixtures; both are from natural sources and allowed for food use. Alginate forms gel by adding divalent cations, most commonly, calcium chloride and pectin gels in the presence of sugar or calcium. However, the mixture of pectin and alginate form pH reversible hydrogel. The gel-solution change occurs around pH 3.
Kaletunç’s laboratory at Ohio State has the experience to prepare and characterize pH responsive hydrogels to be incorporated into acidic food beverages for delivery of nutrients. Hydrogels stay intact in the beverage during processing and storage, and in the upper digestive tract of human body after consumption. However, they dissolve and release the nutrients in the lower digestive tract such as intestines where nutrients are absorbed thereby providing a targeted delivery and controlled release opportunity. Hydrogel production conditions are regulated to control the release kinetics of the nutrient in the intestines. Although hydrogels are aqueous based systems, Kaletunç’s lab developed methods to achieve the encapsulation of both hydrophilic and hydrophobic compounds. The techniques can be used for oral drug delivery purposes too.
The Fulbright Specialist Program is administered by World Learning and is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.