Probiotics may not be healthy for everyone

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in the United States has shown that probiotics are only beneficial for people with healthy intestinal barriers.

Probiotics are living micro-organisms (bacteria and yeasts), which, if taken in sufficient quantities, are thought to have a positive effect on health.

“Good bacteria” are present in large quantities in our bodies (in intestinal, vaginal, and oral flora). Probiotics, often sold in the form of food supplements containing cultures such as lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, are intended to reinforce the action of these beneficial bacteria, which are not always present in sufficient numbers for our immune systems to function properly.

In this study, researchers from the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin sought to learn more about the functioning of the intestine and the efficacy of probiotics.

The intestine is lined with an epithelium: a delicate single-cell layer that protects the body against potentially harmful bacteria in the gut. Assistant professor in biomedical engineering Hyun Jung Kim and PhD student Woojung Shin used an organ-on-a-chip, a special micro-chip with a layer of human cells to model the functioning of this intestinal barrier.

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