Turkish scientist turns fly larvae into anti-aging material

Anke Neustadt

The black soldier fly is already in use in diverse areas from agriculture to pet food. A Turkish professor hopes it will also help address the raw material shortage in the cosmetics industry.

Emel Erdal Çalıkoğlu, a dermatology expert from Dokuz Eylül University in the western Turkish province of Izmir, has tapped into the insect’s larvae for producing a base for anti-aging products. The larvae, rich in protein and oil, is highly antibacterial and “cleaning,” she said, adding that it also has a “moisturizing” feature. Çalıkoğlu notes that it can also be used to heal wounds.

The professor set up a company at a technology park of her university, together with her husband Dr. Tamer Çalıkoğlu, with the support of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBITAK). There, the couple feeds flies with fruits and vegetables and extract oil from their larvae. The fly’s waste material also provides quality fertilizer and animal feed, she says.

Çalıkoğlu said the cosmetics industry has been facing a raw materials problem for a long time, as existing materials were polluting the environment and leaving behind a high carbon footprint. “We set out to find a raw material that would not harm the environment and would be sustainable,” she told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Friday.

The small “farm” she set up for black soldier flies gives them the appropriate climate condition for mating. “After collecting larvae, we feed them. It is important to adhere to a suitable diet for them. We feed them only with organic waste and this helps us extract quality feed and oil from the larvae,” she explained.

She noted that the oil from black soldier flies contains lauric acid, a saturated fatty acid derived from coconuts and palm oil whose extraction harmed the environment. “The oil extracted from flies is very precious, with lauric acid content equivalent to acid from other sources. Lauric acid is widely available in breast milk too. Black soldier fly oil also contains palmitic acid and linoleic acid,” she said.

As trial products, the company manufactured soaps, lotions and cream from the oil and Çalıkoğlu said they had been successful so far. “Black soldier fly oil equivalent is sold for up to 500 euros ($529.27) per liter in the world, while the fly’s oil can be sold for 75 euros per liter,” she said, noting the low cost of production. “It has two benefits for our country. Firstly, we don’t have to rely on imports and secondly, its production helps the environment, as it helps disposal of organic waste. We already have huge interest from companies in France, Azerbaijan and other countries,” she added.

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