New platform to develop next gen microbiome-safe products

By Danielle Masterson

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images / Tang Ming Tung
Getty Images / Tang Ming Tung

Related tags Seed Health Gut health dysbiosis immunology

Synthetic chemicals have increased too rapidly over the years, jeopardizing the health of humans and the planet. Now Seed and the Swiss Institute of Allergy and Asthma are combining microbiome science and epithelial immunology knowledge to thwart these threats.

Seed Health, a microbiome science company, and the Swiss Institute of Allergy and Asthma Research (SIAF) recently announced the launch of a new platform to develop the next generation of non-toxic, non-inflammatory, microbiome-safe home and personal care products. The parties conducted research that found the average consumer is inadvertently ingesting compounds that disrupt the gut.

First class partnership 

Seed Health Co-Founder, Raja Dhir, explained the partnership was set up by Seed’s Scientific Board member Dr. Kari Nadeau–someone Dhir said he highly respects and considers to be among the top immunologists in the world. 

“Once introductions were made, I hopped on a plane to meet with our new discovery partner,” said Dhir.

Fast forward to today, globally renowned immunologist and physician-scientist, Cezmi A. Akdis, MD, is at the helm of the venture, which combines Seed Health’s microbiome science expertise with SIAF’s novel immunology platform (EDAPS-I). The purpose is to evaluate the toxicity and pro-inflammatory impact of commonly-used surfactants, emulsifiers, and preservatives on epithelial barriers, with the ultimate goal being to power a new standard of products that may preserve or even enhance immunological health. 

Together, SIAF and Seed are advancing research on the toxicity of common cleaners and other everyday products to develop a new generation of non-toxic, microbiome-safe products for the future of home and personal care. 

"A defective epithelial barrier can facilitate the entry of allergens and induce an inflammatory response that can initiate or aggravate many chronic inflammatory diseases. This makes the need to further evaluate the health hazards of these barrier-damaging compounds, and the search for safer alternatives, all the more urgent," said Akdis. "We’re inspired to partner with Seed Health and leverage the team’s expertise in microbiome science, product development and commercialization as we collaborate to translate this research into a new generation of products that can protect and restore these critical barriers.” 

The price of 'clean'

A group of international scientists has found the amount of chemical pollution produced on Earth is overwhelming the environment. According to their 2022 research​ published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology, this rise of industrialization and urbanization has led to 350,000 new chemicals being introduced into “modern life” since 1950. Many of these compounds including preservatives, emulsifiers, nanoparticles, and microplastics, are found in common consumer products.

Image courtesy of Seed

“The years following the Industrial Revolution brought the proliferation of processed foods, cigarette smoke, particulate matter, diesel exhaust, and ozone, as well as the introduction of products like cosmetics, laundry and dishwasher detergents, household cleaning products, and our general obsession with being ‘clean,’” explained Ara Katz, Seed Health co-founder. 

The compounds in these products are known to affect the epithelial barrier of the skin, upper and lower airways, and the mucosa of the digestive system, causing microbial dysbiosis and ‘microinflammation.’  Dr. Akdis' Epithelial Barrier Theory hypothesizes that this increase in barrier-damaging agents is behind the epidemic-level rise in allergic, autoimmune and other chronic conditions. 

In a recent study co-authored by Akdis, Dhir and Nadeau​, the EDAPS-I platform helped to reveal that commercial dishwashing detergents destroy the protective layer in the gut. Specifically, the study found that alcohol ethoxylates, an ingredient class used in commercial rinse aids, remains as residue on washed and ready-to-use dishware following the commercial rinse cycle. The research suggests that even a small amount of this compound in the residue induces cell death and inflammation that result in epithelial barrier defects. 

"Until this point, we've lacked the technology and methods to establish the toxicity threshold of compounds in everyday products, resulting in population exposure in excess," said Dhir. “Our platform uniquely combines host and microbial immunology to reimagine the future of products in the built environment." 

Shaping gut health 

“Our continuing research thus far has demonstrated that in the framework of allergic, autoimmune, and chronic conditions, the main events are taking place within the frame of a triangle—the interaction between microbes, epithelial cells, and the immune system—showing that similar diseases can develop, even if only one ‘side’ of the metaphorical triangle is sick,” said Dhir. “With this collaboration, we are bringing together like-minded scientists who understand these mechanisms and want to develop interventions to remediate this damage. With our expertise in microbiome science, product development and commercialization, and SIAF’s novel human immunology and epithelial cell platforms, we have a unique opportunity to translate nearly three decades of research to protect and restore these critical barriers and the microbiome.

The protection and restoration could come in the form of probiotic supplementation. Seed said it has plans to create a multi-category pipeline to support these barriers, including potential supplementation. 

Seed is evaluating the toxicity and pro-inflammatory impact of over 200 commonly-used surfactants, emulsifiers, and preservatives on the barriers of the skin, gut, respiratory tract, and mucosas of the vagina and mouth. Notably, Dhir points out, this will be the first initiative to integrate host and microbial immunology to create a more biological definition of "toxicity" and rethink the future of everyday products.

“Our first phase of work is focused on surfactants for skin (face, body, scalp, infant) and the home, and we plan to continue this research to support a multi-category product pipeline; this could potentially include supplementation as we know certain probiotic strains promote the integrity of the gut barrier,” Dhir explained. 

“In fact, several strains formulated in our flagship DS-01 Daily Synbiotic assist in the maintenance of gut barrier integrity by promoting increased expression of a gene called 2. This gene is crucial to the upkeep of organ systems that often deal with environmental insults, like the liver and intestine. With increased expression, 2 gene can ‘clean up’ reactive oxygen species (ROS) – compounds that are responsible for injury to the gut mucosal lining,” said Dhir. “In addition,  2 expression is associated with the production of proteins in the gut that form tight junctions.”

“We are experiencing the climate change of our insides. Ecological disruption is now mirrored in our health,” said Katz.  “Through our work with Dr. Akdis and SIAF, we can use fine-scale immunology to reimagine the evolution of everyday products for ourselves, our families and our environment.” 

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