Washington: Scientists have now decoded the biochemical mechanism that lies behind the protective effect of some lactic acid bacteria, which play a role in alleviating inflammation and thus protecting against intestinal diseases.In experiments with mice, the researchers succeeded in demonstrating that lactocepin – an enzyme produced by certain lactic acid bacteria – selectively degrades inflammatory mediators in diseased tissue.This new evidence might lead to new approaches for the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases.Yoghurt has been valued for centuries for its health-promoting effects.These effects are thought to be mediated by the lactic acid bacteria typically contained in yoghurt.Evidence from recent scientific studies show that some bacterial strains actually have a probiotic effect and can thus prevent disease.A team of biologists and nutrition scientists working with Prof. Dirk Haller from the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) has now discovered the mechanisms at work behind this protective effect.In experiments with mice, the scientists observed that lactocepin – an enzyme produced from the lactic acid bacterium Lactobacillus paracasei – can selectively interrupt inflammatory processes.As the scientists observed, lactocepin degrades messengers from the immune system, known as chemokines, in the diseased tissue. As a part of the “normal” immune response, chemokines are needed to guide defense cells to the source of the infection.In chronic intestinal disorders like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, the otherwise highly effective defense mechanism against infectious agents is malfunctioning.Chemokines such as “IP-10” then contribute to the tissue damage due to chronic inflammatory processes, preventing the tissue from healing.“Lactocepin is a familiar element in food technology research,” said Prof. Dirk Haller, who holds the Chair for Biofunctionality of Food at the TUM.
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