June 16, 2008, Updated September 13, 2012

HighTech Lipids is the first company to offer integration of Omega fats into intravenous drips.Most people who can eat normally have a hard time getting the nutrients they need to stay healthy – and the problem is even worse for those who need to be fed intravenously, says Youval Saly, CEO of Israeli medical startup HighTech Lipids (HTL). The problem is especially acute when it comes to getting healthy fats, like Omega 3 and 9 acids. But thanks to a special “designer” fat cell developed by HTL, intravenously fed patients will no longer be shortchanged nutritionally.

Millions of patients inside and outside hospitals survive on intravenous feeds, a part of the medical regimen of “total parenteral nutrition,” or TPN. Among those whose sole source of nutrition is TPN are patients in a coma, premature infants, individuals undergoing chemotherapy treatment, people with various intestinal or digestive problems, and others.

Unable to ingest nutrition – solid or liquid – through their mouths, these patients need TPN in order to survive. For some, it’s a short-term regimen, but in other cases, TPN may be administered for a very long time.

And one of the biggest problems with a TPN regimen, says Saly, is the fact that intravenous patients have been shortchanged when it comes to Omega fatty acids. Among the reasons is the chemical makeup of the fat cells, he says – they just don’t take kindly to being broken down into efficient liquid form, suitable for intravenous injection.

While most healthy people are trying to shed fat, it’s an important substance for individuals whose bodies are working overtime to heal. Especially useful, of course, are the poly- and mono- unsaturated Omega 3 and Omega 9 fatty acids, which among other things slow synthesis of bad cholesterol, facilitate mobility of the red blood cells and prevent stickiness in the capillaries, and diminish the deposits of fats in adipose tissue (fatty tissues) – making them especially useful for bedridden patients who get little or no exercise during a long hospital stay.

But because of those chemical issues, Omega fats have been difficult to integrate into TPN diets. “The lipid content of the current generation of TPN is incomplete, and has imbalanced fatty acid content,” Saly says, and the imbalance can lead to a range of complications, including high triglyceride levels in the blood (leading to problems in the liver or pancreas), brain or nervous system problems, or even sepsis (blood poisoning) – all possibly resulting in death.

Given the fact that the body is already reeling from the problem that caused it to require TPN in the first place, patients need all the nutritional help they can get on their road to recovery. Lipids are an essential part of that nutrition – but they do not lend themselves to easy transformation into liquid form appropriate for intravenous feeding, because of the size and behavior of the molecules that make them up, Saly says.

Enter HTL’s “next generation” of structured triglycerides, which incorporate the essential elements of the Omega fatty acids into a single lipid, using a molecular structure that enables the substance to be much more flexible and amenable for intravenous use.

The system enables more of the “good” parts of the fat to get into the bloodstream as TPN patients take in their nutritional doses, while keeping out the elements that could complicate recovery or endanger patients’ health – bringing the benefits of Omega 3 and 9 fatty acids to those who probably need them the most.

“This is the first time anyone has ever tried to design a fat for this purpose,” Saly says. The system, including the fatty acids profile and the triglyceride structure, are all patented, says Saly, adding that this is the first patent of this kind anywhere.

HTL’s innovation is about to begin preclinical trials, and Saly expects European regulators to approve it within the year – with the FDA following suit about a year later.

HTL, one of the projects of the Misgav high-tech incubator, is a small company – with just four people on the team, including the developers of the system, Dr. Geila Rozen, head of the Clinical Nutrition Department at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, and Irit Shochat, head of the pediatric nutritionist team at Rambam.

Both noticed a need, Saly says – and set out to develop a solution. “We intend to continue with our research, developing advanced lipids to meet the needs of specific patient groups,” depending on their condition and needs.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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