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Biotech, Academic Lab Partner on Microbiome-Safe Products

Spray bottle

(Public Domain Pictures, Pixabay)

18 Jan. 2023. A biotechnology company creating products for gut health and a university immunology lab are evaluating cleaning products for potential damage to human protective tissues. The initiative brings together Seed Health Inc. in Los Angeles and the Swiss Institute of Allergy and Asthma Research, part of University of Zurich in Switzerland.

Seed Health is a developer of therapies and consumer products based on the microbiome, communities of bacteria in the gut, skin, and elsewhere in the body. Research into the microbiome reveals connections between the state of these microbial communities and a wide range of health conditions, beginning with the gastrointestinal system, but extending to the skin, metabolic, immune, and nervous systems as well. Seed Health also makes consumer probiotics for gut, skin, brain, and oral health, as well as digital health tools and probiotics for honeybee protection. A separate subsidiary develops biologics for vaginal and reproductive health.

For this project, Seed Health is partnering with immunologist Cezmi Akdis, director of the Swiss Institute of Allergy and Asthma Research that uses the acronym SIAF. Akdis and colleagues study the effects from increasing use of chemicals found in common consumer products such as preservatives, emulsifiers, and micro-plastics that over time damage the epithelial or thin tissue layers that protect skin and mucosal membranes from infections, toxins, pollutants, and allergens in the environment. Akdis hypothesizes in a paper published in Nature Reviews Immunology that degradation of these epithelial layers contributes to the steep rise in allergies and autoimmune diseases, particularly in urban and industrial regions.

Increased cell death and inflammation in gut tissue

In Dec. 2022, researchers led by Akdis tested common dishwasher detergents and rinse agents on microfluidic chip devices with tissue organoids emulating gut functions, and found these compounds, particularly with higher levels of alcohol rinse agents, are toxic to epithelial barriers in the gut. An analysis of these effects shows increased cell death and inflammation in gut tissue. In addition, dishes washed with professional cleaning compounds have residues of cell- and epithelial tissue-damaging compounds. One of the study’s co-authors is Raja Dhir, co-founder and co-CEO of Seed Health.

The Seed Health/SIAF collaboration is screening some 200 compounds using a microfluidic system similar to that used in the published research, starting with effects on adult scalp, face, and body skin, as well as infant skin. The project plans to extend the analysis to epithelial tissue in the gut, respiratory tract, and mucous membranes in the vagina and mouth.

“A defective epithelial barrier,” says Akdis in a Seed Health statement released through Cision, “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.”

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

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