In 2019, the International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics formally recognised postbiotics as “a preparation of inanimate microorganisms and/or their components that confers a health benefit on the host” (REF). This action was taken in response to growing recognition that microbial cell components and metabolites may be able to interact with host cells and organ systems and provide similar health effects to those benefits which are already accepted for probiotics (live beneficial bacterial) (REF).
The purpose of this investigation was to explore the ability of BruLife’s postbiotics to elicit alterations in the production of a range of immune signalling proteins (known as cytokines) by isolated human immune cells.
A co-culture model was initially optimized in which isolated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (immune cells collected from blood) from healthy adults could be exposed to postbiotic formulations and the production of a range of proteins that are important in regulating aspects of immune system function measured to determine the strength of the response.
Optimised cell culture conditions included a 24h exposure time of the immune cells to the postbiotic formulations and postbiotic bacterial cells in excess (10 times more) of isolated immune cells.
These conditions are similar to other published studies in which co-culture models have been used to study the responsiveness of immune cells to both disease-causing and probiotic bacteria (REF).
To assess the immune modulating effects of BruLife’s postbiotics independent samples from healthy adults were used in the optimised co-culture system, exposed to a postbiotic blend and production of key cytokine proteins measured. To help understand the extent to which postbiotics might stimulate isolated immune cells, cytokine production in response to a known immune stimulating agent (lipopolysaccharide, LPS) was also measured.
It was noted that the magnitude of cytokine production differed between independent samples, consistent with differences in immune system responsiveness between individuals. Average responses indicated clear increases in the production of cytokines that are important in driving immune responses to infection generally, and responses to viral infection specifically following exposure to the postbiotic blend (Figure 1).
In addition, exposure to the postbiotic blend also triggered the production of an important anti-inflammatory factor that helps to regulate immune responses (Figure 2).
As well as assessing the immune stimulating potential of the postbiotic blend, some of the component strains were also assessed in isolation. The different strains had varying effects on different cytokines (Figure 3), suggesting that some strains may impact certain aspects of immune signalling better than others and that a blended formulation may modulate a greater range of immune proteins than a single strain formulation.
In conclusion, this series of experiments provides important early evidence that the Barista Blend found in BRULIFE was able to activate isolated human immune cells as evidenced by production of a range of cytokines involved in both immune responses to infection and regulation of immune responses. Comparison of the responses between the blend and the component strains suggests that use of a blended formulation may provide potential for a greater range of immune modulating effects than single strains alone.
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