Fucoidans are sulfated polysaccharides from the cell-wall of brown algae. They have a wide range of applications in medicine, including regenerative medicine, ophthalmology, cancer, and autoimmune disease. Biological activity of fucoidans directly depends on their structure, which remains poorly understood. This is primarily because the polymeric nature of these molecules limits the use of nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectrometry, classical tools of structural biology for their structural characterization. Raman and Infrared spectroscopies are non-invasive and non-destructive techniques that can be used to probe the structural organization of biological specimens. In this study, we investigate the potential of Raman and Infrared spectroscopy for structural analysis of several fucoidan extracts.
Our results show that Infrared and Raman provide different but complimentary information about the structure of crude extracts of fucoidans, revealing the presence of minor impurities from co-extractants. We also found that at high extraction temperatures acidic conditions limit formation of melanoidins, while also yielding relatively high sulfate ester fucoidan. However, at high temperatures, water extraction may potentially result in formation of advanced glycation end products. Their presence could be problematic for fucoidan extracts intended for medicinal use, as advanced glycation end products have been linked to endocrine interruption mechanisms in vivo by crosslinking to and permanently altering extracellular matrix proteins.
Raman and Infrared can be used as complementary tools for rapid screening of crude fucoidan extracts, which can be a valuable tool for assessing impurities that remain after extraction.