May 23/Nashville/Vanderbilt University -- A protein isolated from beneficial bacteria found in yogurt and dairy products could offer a new, oral therapeutic option for inflammatory bowel disorders, suggests a study led by Vanderbilt University Medical Center researcher Fang Yan.

The study, published May 23 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, shows that the protein, called p40, was effective as an intervention in animal models of colitis (colon inflammation). The investigators demonstrated that the protein supports intestinal epithelial cell growth and function, and reduces inflammatory responses that can cause intestinal cells to die. Importantly, the investigators showed that oral consumption of p40 by mice in a protective delivery system prevents and treats colitis in multiple models of the disease.

Many of the hundreds of bacterial species that live in our gut (known as the “human microbiome”) are helpful to us: they help us digest certain substances, produce vitamins and fight off more dangerous bacteria. But miscommunication between these bacteria and our gut lining can lead to conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 1.4 million persons in the United States alone may suffer from these diseases.

One type of helpful bacteria often used in yogurt production and in nutritional supplements, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG), has been used in attempts to prevent intestinal disorders such as IBD and diarrhea, as well as other conditions such as dermatitis (skin inflammation). However, results generated using whole bacteria have been mixed.

Yan began studying LGG in 2001 while working in the lab of D. Brent Polk, the former director of the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at Vanderbilt.

 

From the May 24, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.