Organic selenium (NutraSelen®) as a new selenium source for human Nutrition

For some projects Tetrahedron uses the cell as a chemical factory thus limiting the energy and environment cost for the manufacturing of the final product. It was the case of the original molecule NutraSelen which has been designed as a physiological precursor of L-selenomethioneine, the physiological source of selenium for human and animals.

Selenium (Se) is an essential micronutrient which plays a key antioxidant/catalytic role in animal and human physiology through its incorporation into enzymes involved in defense against oxidative stress, regulation of redox status and metabolic modulation of thyroid hormones activities (1-3). Se is also required for reproductive and immune functions. In this regard, the European Food Safety Authority has recently approved claims to acknowledge health benefits of Se suplementation for the general population. Protective effects of Se have also been shown in inflammatory diseases, in cancer as well as in aging (4,5).

Selenium deficiency can occur in people dependent on food grown from Se-deficient soil, as well as in people with severely compromised intestinal function, or those undergoing total parenteral nutrition. Selenium deficiency does not result in obvious and specific pathology, but predisposes to severe pathology when combined to additional stresses (nutritional, chemical, infectious). In this context, Se supplementation either alone or in combination with other micronutrients – is essential for the treatment or the prophylaxis of deficiencies, and it is of growing interest for health nutrition and clinical indications (6,7).

Selenium is present in the food chain in two forms as mineral or organic. Sodium selenate/selenite and L-selenomethionine (SeMet) are the major representative compounds. In animals and humans, Se intake occurs mainly through SeMet. However, humans and animais are autoxotrophic for this amino acid, which eau only be obtained through diet. Moreover, this natural selenoorganic compound is characterized by better bioavailability and lower toxicity than inorganic sources of Se (6). It is thus in this organic form that selenium should ideally be incorporated in food supplements aiming to treat or prevent seleniun deficiency.

As a complementary nutrient, SeMet is available by multi-step chemical synthesis, which is difficult and expensive, or within Se-enriched microorganisms using inorganic Se as substrate.

As an alternative, Tetrahedron developed NutraSelen® as a SeMet precursor. The chalenge was that once absorbed by the body this original precursor became biotransformed into L-selenomethionine following two enzymatic reactions inside the cells. The Proof-of-concept has been performed on simple cells such as micro-organisms.

Once evidenced this led to ProBiosel the unique technology of selenomethioneine enrichment of photo- and non-photo-synthetic micro-organisms. For example using the Tetrahedron’s proprietary technology ProBiosel selenomethionine-enriched Probiotics such as Lactobacillus have been obtained even if selenium biochemistry is not a part of the metabolism of such micro-organisms.