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Embria harnesses worms to unlock mechanisms and identify promising new product prototypes

By Stephen DANIELLS , 13-Dec-2012
Last updated the 13-Dec-2012 at 17:50 GMT

The immune benefits of EpiCor, the yeast fermentate from Embria, may be multi-faceted, with new research with nematode worms showing an effect on the innate immune system.

Research by Embria and its parent company Diamond V with Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) is also promising to reveal new product prototypes for both animal and human nutrition, said Stuart Reeves, Embria’s director of R&D.

While some may question the relevance of C. elegans for studies of human nutrition products, Dr Reeves notes that it has many valuable features for the study of immune health ingredients.

Worms

“In the laboratory, C. elegans lives on a lawn of bacteria, and uses them as a source of food,” he explained. “If the worms are grown on a pure culture of a bacterium, then they have no gut flora other than the supplied bacterium.  This allows us to look at immune effects separated from the gut flora effects. 

“The worm normally lives about two weeks under these conditions, and in a trial the number or worms that are still alive is monitored every day.  This data allows a ‘survival curve’ to be plotted and statistical analysis to be carried out.”

Data presented at the 4th ASM Conference on Beneficial Microbes in San Antonio, Texas (October 22–26, 2012) indicated that EpiCor was associated with a “significant and dose-responsive protective effect” against a pathogenic Salmonella challenge, he said.

The researchers actually used a weakened Salmonella vaccine strain that is nonpathogenic to mammals and birds but is pathogenic towards C. elegans

Innate immune effects

Dr Reeves and his co-workers – John Peloquin and Tracy Werner from Diamond V Mills – concluded that, since nematodes lack an adaptive immune system, these protective effects are ascribed to the product imparting increased effectiveness to the worm innate immune system.

The data deepens the company’s understanding of its EpiCor ingredient, he said. The company has previously demonstrated multiple modes of action of the yeast fermentate ingredient on the immune system – both direct and indirect (via the gut flora). 

“This is probably another example of a direct action of EpiCor on the immune system,” he added.

History

EpiCor and Embria were born out of observations that the culture could have other uses following farmers' reports that their animals were not getting sick.

Moreover, in 2004 insurance adjusters noticed that Diamond V, Embria's parent company, employees had far lower sick rates than other workplaces. The company thought the culture could be boosting the immune systems of workers who handled it.

The ingredient is a fermentate preparation of Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

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