Researchers leveraging Akkermansia know-how to accelerate probiotic candidate development
Prof Patrice Cani from WELBIO – UCLouvain (Walloon Excellence in Life Sciences and BIOtechnology (WELBIO) – Université catholique de Louvain) was among the first to focus on Akkermansia muciniphila, a species of bacterium that has attracted growing interest for its health-promoting effects.
Akkermansia muciniphila reportedly has an abundance of about 3% in the human gut, and its abundance in the intestinal mucus layer is inversely correlated with BMI, type 1 diabetes, and bowel disease in humans. Akkermansia is known to produce nutrients that feed intestinal cells responsible for producing the intestinal mucus layer, helping to maintain healthy intestinal barrier function, control gut permeability, and control low grade inflammation in the gut.
Research into the species by Prof Cani and his co-workers in Belgium led to a spin-off company called A-Mansia that is focused on commercial development of A. muciniphila products.
Production of Akkermansia, an anaerobic bacterium, has been a challenge, but lessons learned with the growing and culturing of these anaerobic bacteria should allow for a faster development of a new bacterium that is attracting attention for its potential weight management benefits.
Called Dysosmobacter welbionis J115T, the potential probiotic may counteract diet-induced obesity, insulin resistance, and inflammation.
Speaking with NutraIngredients at Probiota in Copenhagen in March, Prof Cani explained: “Dysosmobacter welbionis is a bacterium that we have isolated recently in the lab, which might be a novel and exciting bacteria. Dysosmobacter is producing different metabolites and it’s known as a butyrate producer, one of the key short chain fatty acids known to have beneficial effects. When we administered Dysosmobacter to rodents, we identified that the bacterium was reducing the body weight and the fat gain on a high fat diet, and also improving the glucose intolerance and improving insulin resistance.
Detailed analysis revealed that Dysosmobacter was increasing the fatty acid oxidation, said Prof Cani, with additional study showing that mitochondrial number and activity were increased.
But that’s in rodents, so what about humans? Dr Cani explained that Dysosmobacter is present in about 70% of the population and up to two or three percent in some people, but people with obesity or diabetes have low abundance of the bacterium.
Prof Cani admitted that his team are in the very early stage of this Dysosmobacter research, and are currently identifying the mode of action. From there, there are many different avenues of research that could open up, such as examining the potential benefits in people after a gastric bypass, or whether metformin changes Dysosmobacter abundance. There may also be changes in Dysosmobacter in subjects suffering from hypertension “So, you can just imagine how many possibilities are there in front of us,” he said.
The plan is to use the lessons from the Akkermansia project to explore the potential routes to market for Dysosmobacter.
“We want to move faster [with Dysosmobacter],” he said. “I won’t claim that we’ll be in the market in five years, but we learned so much with Akkermansia that we have all the tools in hand to progress faster.”
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