Permeation of probe molecules into alginate microbeads: Effect of salt and processing

Food Hydrocolloids, Volume 73, December 2017, Pages 255-261


P. van Leusden1, G.J.M. den Hartog2, A. Bast2, M. Postema3,4,5, E. van der Linden1, L.M.C. Sagis1*


1 Physics and Physical Chemistry of Foods Group, Department of Agrotechnology and Food Sciences, Wageningen University, Bornse Weilanden 9, 6708 WG Wageningen, The Netherlands
2 Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands
3 LE STUDIUM Loire Valley Institute for Advanced Studies, 1 rue Dupanloup, 45000 Orléans, France;
4 INSERM Research unit U930: Imaging and Brain, UFR Médecine, 10 boulevard Tonnellé, 37032 Tours, France;
5 School of Electrical and Information Engineering, Chamber of Mines Building, University of the Witwatersrand, 1 Jan Smuts Avenue, Braamfontein, Johannesburg 2050, South Africa.

* Corresponding author
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The ability to exclude harmful factors from a hydrogel microbead is important for the degree of protection the beads offers to what is encapsulated within. The permeability of alginate microbeads, prepared by water-in-oil emulsification, was investigated by their ability to exclude FITC-labelled protein probes. The influence of alginate concentration, calcium concentration and method of addition, and salt content of the environment was investigated. The permeability was also compared to the permeability of beads made by the traditional method of dripping an alginate solution into a CaCl2 solution. Beads produced with low amounts of CaCl2 show a significant degree of swelling and are therefore very permeable (C/C0 (BSA) = 0.62, where C is the final concentration of BSA-FITC in the bead, and C0 the concentration of BSA-FITC in the continuous phase). With additional calcium, either by adding more calcium crystals after the emulsification step or by washing with a CaCl2 solution, beads swell less and are less permeable (C/C0 (BSA) = 0.13 and 0.12). Beads made by dripping are very permeable (C/C0 (BSA) ∼ 0.60). Because in this process the droplets of alginate are not constrained by a water-oil boundary, the beads can swell during gelation. The salt concentration in the continuous phase influences the strength of the electrostatic repulsion between the probes and the alginate network and hence affects the permeation of the probes into the beads. In the absence of salt, even FITC (389Da) is mostly excluded from the interior of the beads (C/C0 (FITC) ∼ 0.09).


Alginate beads
Debye length
Salt concentration
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