Speaking at the Probiota conference earlier this month, she noted that research has broadened horizons for probiotic applications.
“Traditionally it was digestive and immune diseases that were specifically associated with probiotics. But during the past 10 to 20 years, there have been other health areas that now are also researched; feminine health, metabolic health, brain health, oral health, skin health as a newcomer, and then everything in relation to early life nutrition and sports nutrition.”
Considering the new health areas, she suggests that combination products, utilizing botanicals as well as probiotics, offers a great opportunity to expand into new health targets which are better associated with other ingredients.
"With the thinking that there are certain areas where there isn’t that much science, at least yet, in probiotics, but there is in other ingredients.”
“....Polyphenols and botanicals are also something that would be very interesting - there are a lot of studies on polyphenols and botanicals that have additional and complementary effects.”
For example, considering skin health, Maukonen noted: “If you have a topical probiotic it’s easy for people to understand that, ’OK, I apply a cream here and it takes wrinkles away but if I ingest a probiotic how can it help?’”
Consumers may find it easier to understand how combination products could these benefits.
She suggests the use of botanicals and polyphenols also ticks that ‘natural’ or ‘clean’ health boxes for consumers.
But when creating symbiotic products with probiotics and botanicals, there is the question of safety. Dr. Maukonen explains the stability of probiotics has the potential to be jeopardised with the addition of external products, and it remains of importance that rigorous testing procedures are followed before approaching clinical trial stage.
The three key considerations are that the ingredients are compatible with each other, they remain stable independently, and they maintain active until the end of shelf life.
Speaking about the precision probiotic opportunity, Maukonen notes that it is said the market is set to be worth USD 11.35bn by 2026, and it is an area gaining traction with global companies.
She notes that there are three different business models that complement each other - the initial microbiome testing companies which give recommendations, the personalised nutrition programs which provide follow up advice, and the manufacturers or tailored supplementation.
Discussing potential future applications, Maukonen adds: “It could be something that in the future could be utilized as nutrition and therapeutic regimens but then again at the moment it’s not because there is no definition for the healthy microbiota.
“So if a patient goes to the doctor and asks ‘do I have all the bacteria that I need to have?’ you don’t have a list of the bacteria you need. But we might do in the future – we’ll see.”
Next generation probiotics
Discussing the exciting area of next-gen probiotics, Maukonen noted that there are a plethora of microbes that have not yet been used to promote health to date.
She provided FDA’s definition of live biotherapy products (LBP) as biological products that "contains life organisms such as bacteria, is applicable to the prevention, treatment, or cure of a disease or condition; and is not a vaccine".
A recently published IFF study into the Akkermansia sp. DSM 33459 strain utilised a preclinical obesity model to determine its effect on metabolic markers. The researchers found Akkermansia sp. DSM 33459 showed significant improvement in body weight, total fat weight, and resistin and insulin levels.
Interestingly, these effects were more pronounced with the live form as compared to a pasteurised form of the strain and the strain showed production of agmatine, suggesting a potential novel mechanism for supporting metabolic and cognitive health.
Based on its phenotypic features and phylogenetic position, the researchers concluded that this isolate represents a novel species in the genus Akkermansia and a promising therapeutic candidate for the management of metabolic diseases.
But Maukonen notes that commercialising these types of products is far trickier than standard probiotics.
“You could grow something in the lab, and it grows perfectly, but then when you put it into a bigger fermenter and start using food grade ingredients, having halal, kosher etc restrictions, plus the gas atmosphere can impact.”