Food-induced modulation of the intestinal immune barrier

Project leader: Prof Paul de Vos
Time Frame: 2011 – 2015
Project code: GH002
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Many food products contain bioactive ingredients that might contribute to gastrointestinal health, such as probiotics and fibres. To date, scientific substantiation of such beneficial effects has been difficult to obtain due to the absence of validated tests. This project aimed to develop a technology platform for testing the effects of novel food components on the intestinal immune barrier. The platform will assist food manufacturers in substantiating their health claims.

Both in vitro and in vivo model studies were performed to investigate how food components can modulate the intestinal immune barrier. The research focus was on the mutual effects and interplay between the intestinal microbial ecology, the mucus, the epithelial barrier and the immune system. Some immune biomarkers, that measure effects at different ages and in genders, were identified. The essential role of mucus, in the maintenance of the intestinal immune barrier, has been confirmed.

In 2013 the project received a funding extension and three ‘incentive’ projects were added to the project: 1) FibeBiotics, 2) The case of Akkermansia and Mucositis and 3) Bioactive food ingredients.

The addition of the FibeBiotics project has allowed us to develop more technologies to predict the bioactivity of food components in humans. The Mucositis project started in 2015 and served as a novel model to study the efficacy of food components. In The case of Akkermansia project, a mucus degrader – microbiota – was studied in more detail via immune sampling. The project was completed with human volunteer clinical trials to study the effects of immunomodulating food products on the intestinal immune barrier.