Hokkaido University Research Profiles

Life Sciences

Elucidation and Application of New Functions of Food by Evaluating the Intestinal Environment

Development of a new intestinal environment evaluation system for food and medicine

Food materials and ingredients, intestinal bacteria acting as parasites, and host Paneth cell α-defensins are the three elements that determine the “intestinal environment.” We are developing an intestinal environment evaluation system based on the new paradigm that crosstalk between these three elements affects health maintenance and disease to elucidate food functionality and apply it to disease prevention.

Content of research

In our original definition of “intestinal environment,” three elements, namely, food materials and ingredients, intestinal bacteria acting as parasites, and host Paneth cells α-defensin, determine the “intestinal environment,” and their crosstalk affects health maintenance and disease. This definition has prompted a paradigm shift in food functionality. The purpose of this study is to clarify the involvement of α-defensins in health maintenance, disease development and pathogenesis. This will help us establish a novel functional evaluation system of food and international criteria to evaluate the intestinal environment. By combining a tissue culture system with an α-defensin quantification system, we will lay the foundation for systematic analysis of the relationship between various intestinal functions and food functions of which the mechanisms are still unknown. This will be the first to elucidate immunostimulation and the control of aging substances by digested food materials and ingredients and drugs. We aim to obtain new scientific indicators to create high added value for food.

Potential for social implementation

  • ・Evaluation of the functionality of food, materials, ingredients, etc.
  • ・Effects of pharmaceuticals on the intestinal environment
  • ・Elucidation of the relationship between the intestinal environment and health and disease
  • ・Clarification of the mechanisms of food and drugs
  • ・High value-added food products, etc.

Appealing points to industry and local governments

Theα-defensins secreted by Paneth cells select intestinal bacteria and regulate the intestinal environment. We have clarified that, unlike conventional pro (pre) biotics, the body actively acts on intestinal bacteria to eliminate pathogenic bacteria and maintain an intestinal environment in symbiosis with indigenous bacteria. There is great potential for foods and pharmaceuticals to exert as yet unknown improving actions on the intestinal environment.