Bioengineers recently created an antioxidant from animals’ red blood cells, named Prot-X, that may extend the shelf life of pet food.

“This product is a very effective natural antioxidant that is as efficient as synthetic antioxidants and less costly to produce than other natural antioxidants,” one of the product’s creators, Clemson University bioengineering professor Alexey Vertegel, said in a press release. “When added to pet food, it allows the food to maintain its freshness and quality and prevents fat rancidity.”

“Red blood cells are natural oxygen carriers so they are well protected from oxidation,” Vertegel said. “So, because red blood cells have all the biomolecules they need to protect themselves from oxidation, our idea to use [blood] as antioxidant was pretty logical.”

The availability of this new antioxidant provides an added market for by-products of the animal processing industry, Vertegel said. Prot-X is a clear liquid.

“Rendered products are proteins and fats obtained from parts of the animals that aren’t used for human food,” he said. “These proteins and fats are a good source of nutrition in pet food and feed for livestock, poultry and aquaculture.”

Large amounts of animal by-products are generated annually in the US and Canada as a result of meat, milk and egg production. These are processed into products for pet food and other animal feed ingredients as well as hundreds of other consumer and industrial applications, including biodiesel.

“The global market for antioxidants is about $600 million a year,” Vertegel said. “The US market is $200 million per year.”

Vertegel and Vladimir Reukov, who are both bioengineering professors and researchers for Clemson’s Animal Co-Products Research and Education Center (ACREC), won the 2016 Bisplinghoff Innovation Award by the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation for their creation of this natural antioxidant, Prot-X.

The product could hit the market as early as 2017, Reukov said in a press release.

The Animal Co-Products Research and Education Center was established in 2003 as a partnership between the North American animal rendering industry through the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation and Clemson University.


The Bisplinghoff Innovation Award was established in March 2015 by the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation board of directors and re-named for its late president, Fred Bisplinghoff. The award is given annually to a Fats and Proteins Research Foundation grant recipient who has made substantial contributions to the rendering industry.