Recent advances in chemistry may make it possible to solubalize the life-sustaining coenzyme CoQ10 into water, experts at the University of California, Santa Barbara including Indian-origin post-doctoral researcher Subir Ghorai have revealed.
"If you don't know anything about it, that's not surprising to me. Much of the public hasn't heard of it," said Bruce Lipshutz, a professor of Chemistry at UC Santa Barbara.
"In a sense, I'm just a messenger. People need to not only know about CoQ10, they need to take it," he added.
He described it as a coenzyme that synthesized by and is present in cells, something that contrasts with a vitamin - like vitamin C - which is not made by the body.
Lipshutz said that both CoQ10 and vitamin C are "compounds of evolution".
"Everybody accepts the importance of vitamin C. The reason the public does not fully appreciate it is that there's no Linus Pauling for CoQ10. There is no champion. CoQ is not really in that category of public awareness yet," he said.
It may be recalled that Nobel Prize-winning scientist Pauling was also an advocate for greater consumption of vitamin C.
Lipshutz pointed out that the production of CoQ10 inside the body decreases with age.
"Nature gave us, through 2.5 billion years of evolution, a number of fundamental anti-aging, free-radical scavengers that helped us to survive, on average, only to about 40 years of age, until modern medicine came along," he said.
He added that a large percentage of the body is made up of water, "but there are also the lipophilic portions of our cells that make up the non-aqueous part."
According to him, at some point in our evolution, the water-soluble antioxidant vitamin C was produced in vivo, or what would technically be "coenzyme C".
"(Eventually) a mutation took place that now prevents humans from making it. However, evolution chose not to mutate out CoQ10," he said.
Highlighting the importance of vitamin C, he said: "It's essential for several cellular processes. For example, everyone knows about scurvy. You can last 30 days, maybe 60 days, as your cells deteriorate."
On the other hand, CoQ10 - much of which is in the mitochondria of our cells - is essential for cellular respiration and ATP (adenosine triphosphate) production.
"You wouldn't last 30 minutes without CoQ10. Thus, evolution teaches us that CoQ10 is as important as vitamin C. But who's teaching this to our aging population? Nobody," Lipshutz said
He revealed that nano-micelle-forming technology may make it possible to get CoQ10 into water.
He starts by putting a known, inexpensive molecule called PTS into water, which spontaneously forms a nanosphere about 25 nanometers (one nanometer is equal to one billionth of a meter) in diameter.
This sphere has a lipophilic portion tied to a hydrophilic portion through a linker. The lipophilic portion, which is actually vitamin E, goes to the center.
"The vitamin E portion associates in the middle with itself because it doesn't have any solubility, any energy-lowering interactions, with the water around it. But the external or hydrophilic portion associates with water," Lipshutz said.
"So, on the outside is the water-loving portion, while the lipophilic, or grease-loving portion, is on the inside. When you add the CoQ, it says, 'Where would I rather be?' Since like dissolves like, the CoQ10 goes inside the micelle. It's 25 nanometers and it's crystal clear. And, it's stable at room temperature," the researcher added.
He said that this approach delivers twice the amount of the compound into the bloodstream, and the concentration in water can be adjusted.
According to him, this approach can be applied to a broad range of nutraceuticals, including omega-3s, carotenoids like lutein and beta-carotene, and resveratrol.
"We can also take pharmaceuticals, like Taxol, an anti-tumor agent, and put them into just water or saline using this PTS," he said.
Lipshutz hopes that when his processes are looked at on a much larger scale, a savings of metric tons of solvent, currently released into the environment, will be realized.
"We aim to get organic solvents out of organic reactions. And we're already looking into next-generation possibilities. All of our green chemistry has come out of being able to put CoQ10 and other dietary supplements into water," he said.
The upcoming review 'Transition Metal Catalyzed Cross-Couplings Going Green: in Water at Room Temperature' will be published in Aldrichimica Acta in September.