Production, characterization, and usage of biomaterial and BPLH bioplastic based on lupin hulls.
Production, characterization, and usage of biomaterial and BPLH bioplastic based on lupin hulls.

Reprocessing vegetable waste is emerging as a promising route to useful biomaterials for biomedicine and the food industry. New approaches to regenerative medicine and tissue engineering require biocompatible scaffolds to support the adhesion, proliferation, and differentiation of stem cells into replacement tissue. Biowaste could offer a cheap and abundant, as well as environmentally friendly, feedstock for such biomaterials. Recently, researchers from the University of Rome Tor Vergata have created two types of scaffold from the hull of the lupin plant (Lupinus albus L.) for the growth of human cells [Buonvino et al., Biomaterials 293 (2023) 121984, ].

The lupin has several potential health benefits and is becoming a major legume crop, particularly in environmentally stressed regions with low annual rainfall or poor soil. The hulls contain most of the plant’s fibers, mainly cellulose and hemicellulose, as well as natural antioxidants. The first scaffold is produced by treating the hulls with ethanol for 24 hours, before washing and lyophilizing. The dried material can be stored for weeks and rehydrated in PBS whenever required. The lupin-derived scaffold has a high cellulose content and contains beneficial phytochemicals. Moreover, the material shows good adhesion and proliferation of human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs).

A second scaffold material was produced by incubating dried, finely crushed hulls in trifluoracetic acid (TFA) for 48 hours. This approach has been used previously to produce bioplastics from a range of different vegetal species from parsley and spinach stalks to rice and cocoa husks. Like the other scaffold material, the ‘BPLH’ bioplastic shows good adhesion and proliferation of hMSCs and fibroblasts, as well as the initial signs of muscle cell differentiation. BPLH can absorb considerable amounts of water rapidly and is more stable than other vegetable-derived bioplastics.

The bioplastic’s flexibility and smooth surface make it potentially suitable for biomedicine applications, such as cell culture or wound healing, or food packaging, the researchers suggest.

“Our results show a possible valorization of waste-derived bioplastics to develop low-cost, naturally functionalized patches for regenerative medicine and the production of cell-based food,” adds Sonia Melino, who led the work. “This versatile lupin hull biomaterial gives new life and value to extensively produced vegetable waste.”

The team now plan to work on improving the fabrication, mechanical and electric properties of the BPLH material and exploit its autofluorescence properties in biosensing applications.