Is your liposome ingredient really a liposome? Pharmako Biotechnologies advises testing to be sure. Natural Products Expo West report


The company explained why its PlexoZome liposomes are true liposomes—and why others on the market might not be.

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Pharmako Biotechnologies (N.S.W., Australia), a delivery systems innovator focused on solutions for lipophilic ingredients, talked about its new PlexoZome liposomal technology at March’s Natural Products Expo West trade show in Anaheim, CA. PlexoZome is Pharmako’s fourth innovative delivery platform to enter the market. It joins the company’s AquaCelle micellar delivery system, its LipiSperse powder-dispersion technology, and its compressible powdered oil technology. These technologies render difficult-to-disperse and difficult-to-absorb ingredients easier to formulate with and more bioavailable.

At Expo West, Pharmako’s cofounder and commercial director, Eric Meppem, said, “The beauty with the PlexoZome technology, which is the trade name for our liposomal tech, is that we can apply it to both hydrophilic and lipophilic actives.” This is a new step for the company, whose previous technologies were mostly designed to help with lipophilic ingredients like carotenoids, polyphenols, omega-3s, and CoQ10.

Meppem explained that liposomes are bi-layered structures with an aqueous core and a liquid-filled ring that allow the combination of both hydrophilic and lipophilic substances.

Liposomal technology has become quite trendy in the nutrition space today, Meppem said. However, he alleged, “most people have been looking at liposomes, but they haven’t necessarily done a lot of work with some of the science to support them.”

What does that mean for health and wellness companies? It means that if they’re buying a liposomal ingredient from a supplier with assurances that it is a true liposome—but it really isn’t a liposome—the buyer is getting fleeced.

In fact, Meppem said, liposomes are complicated to work with. Not everyone can create nor validate a true liposome. “Liposomes are quite technical,” he said. “Liposomes don’t occur naturally. It’s not like you mix something up and form an emulsion; you actually have to create them. They don’t occur spontaneously. They don’t happen by themselves. It’s a pharma tech that’s been translated across to nutraceuticals.”

First off, he said, a manufacturer needs to have the right knowledge to produce liposomes. “Liposomes are really small,” Meppem said. “ We’re talking a thousandth the size of a piece of human hair. So, really tiny. They’re a nanostructured vesicle. To get something that tiny, you need to have the right equipment and the right process—and, obviously, the right ingredients.”

Unfortunately, not all companies have the required expertise. Some of those companies are now coming to light. “There’s people in the market—in America, in Australia, in New Zealand, in the UK,” Meppem said. “In the UK, a couple of brands have famously been told to either take them off the market or stop calling them liposomes by the fair-trade commissioner over there. So there have been cases around the world now, and we know just from what we’ve seen on shelf and what’s at market that there are some proper liposomes, and there are some which are definitely not liposomes.”

One way to tell if a liposome is actually a liposome is to conduct testing, he said. “There’s a couple of ways to validate them,” he said. The first is to examine their size to ensure they are nanoparticles and not just microparticles. Secondly, he said, you need to measure the structure’s “zeta potential” (liposomes are negatively charged). Then, you can even use a transmission electron microscope and employ other tools, like a cryochamber, to examine the structure further and ensure it’s actually a bi-layered structure.

Doing such inspections has enabled his company to catch non-liposomes on the market. “When we looked at one of the competitors, it looked, from a particle analysis and from zeta potential, that they almost formed liposomes, but under the transmission electron microscope, it was like a stringy structure. So they’d almost formed liposomes, but they were almost more like a microemulsion or a nanoemulsion,” Meppem said. “When we looked at PlexoZome from Pharmako, they were discreet little circles.”

To demonstrate that PlexoZome is truly liposomal technology, Meppem said Pharmako has just started working with two different universities on mechanistic and pharmacokinetic studies to demonstrate absorption both orally and topically. Meanwhile, for those companies working with a liposomal supplier, he advised asking the manufacturer how they are validating that its products are truly liposomes.

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