DEFINITIONS

BIOTECHNOLOGY

In 1919, the hungarian engineer Károly Ereky uses for the first time the term biotechnology. The term was officially defined in 1992 in the Convention on Biological Diversity.

It was later ratified by 168 countries and accepted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and WHO as “any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms or their derivatives to create or modify products and processes for specific uses.” This definition encompasses a set of activities that the man has been developing for thousands of years, such as the production of fermented foods – bread, wine, yogurt, beer and others.

Biotechnology encompasses knowledge of microbiology, genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, chemistry and currently, computer science, which helped in the evolution of techniques allowing its automation.

STRAINS AND CULTURES

Strain can be defined as a group of living beings of the same species and similar characteristics, especially microorganisms. The reference strains are intended to verify the results obtained, have known characteristics, and their identification and sensitivity profile have already been determined.

The subculture of the reference strains is defined as stock culture. Work culture is the subculture of stock culture.

MICROBIOME

The term microbiome was coined for the first time by Joshua Lederberd (1925-2008), an American molecular biologist who argued that microorganisms that inhabit the human body should be included as part of their genome because of their influence on physiology.

The adult and health human body harbors ten times more microorganisms than human cells and this combined genome is much larger than the human genome. The microbiome is the totality of the microorganisms, their genetic elements and the environmental interactions in a particular context.

The microbiome’s contributions to health and disease are just beginning to be revealed. In the coming years, studies of this complex ecology and its interaction with the host organism may not only reveal the secrets of several important diseases, but also through the modulation of the microbiota, allowing the discovery of new therapeutic approaches.

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched the Human Microbiome Project in 2007, a research project that aimed to characterize human microbial species and its relation with health. This project had a grant of US$ 153 million and produced large datasets available from genetic studies.

Published articles include the description of changes in the composition of various microbial communities in relation to specific conditions, such as intestinal microbiome and Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and esophageal adenocarcinoma.

According to the program, humans do not have all the enzymes needed to digest our own diet. “The microbes in our body break down most of the diet’s proteins, lipids and carbohydrates into nutrients we can absorb.” In addition, the program noted that microbes produce beneficial compounds such as vitamins and anti-inflammatories that our own genome cannot produce.

The human microbiome, in a simplified way, is the set of microorganisms that inhabit the human organism. In this aspect, the intestinal microbiome is a complex reality, not only due to the diversity of microorganisms that inhabit the intestine, as also the way of interaction between them and the host. In the future we will manipulate the bacterial compartment of our ecosystem to treat diseases in a personalized way.

PROBIOTICS

According to ANVISA – National Agency of Sanitary Vigilance (Brazil), probiotics are the living microorganisms capable of improving the intestinal microbial balance producing beneficial effects to the health of the individual. While prebiotics are dietary fibers that are consumed in the intestine by probiotics thus favoring their growth and development.

Complementarily, vast literature describes additional benefits associated with prebiotics, probiotics and synbiotics:

• Nutritional benefits: vitamin production, mineral and trace elements availability;

• Barrier, restoration and antagonistic effects against: infectious diarrhea (traveler’s diarrhea, acute viral diarrhea in children); diarrhea associated with the use of antibiotics;

• Reducing effects of cholesterol by: cholesterol assimilation, modification of the activities of hydrolysis of bile salts, antioxidant effect;

• Stimulating and improving the immune system by: strengthening non-specific defense against infection, increased phagocytic activity of white blood cells, increased production of IgA, regulation of the Th1/Th2 equilibrium,
induction of cytokine synthesis, improvement of bowel motility and relief of constipation;

• Reduction of inflammatory or allergic reactions by: homeostasis
restoration of the immune system, regulation of cytokine synthesis,
colonization resistance and adherence;

• Anti-carcinogenic effect in the colon by:
carcinogens or pro-carcinogens inactivation, or prevention of their formation;
- metabolic activities modulation of the colonic microorganisms,
- immune response, maintenance of mucosal integrity, antioxidant activities.

PREBIOTICS

Prebiotics are defined as non-digestible food compounds that are beneficial to the host through their selective stimulation on proliferation or activity of beneficial microorganisms within the colon. Its main action is to stimulate the growth or metabolically activate beneficial bacteria of the intestinal tract. Prebiotics act in a closely related way to probiotics.

As main characteristics, prebiotics should not be metabolized or absorbed during their passage through the upper digestive tract; should serve as a substrate for beneficial intestinal bacteria; must have the ability to alter the intestinal microflora in a conducive manner to health and capable of inducing systemic beneficial effects or in the intestinal lumen. In addition, prebiotics can inhibit the multiplication of pathogens, ensuring additional health benefits.

SYNBIOTICS

Compounds containing both probiotic and prebiotic ingredients, resulting in products with functional characteristics of both groups.

The consumption of properly selected probiotics and prebiotics in a symbiotic compound synergistically increases the positive effects of each of them, acting as a multiplying factor on the isolated actions of each ingredient.

Synbiotics optimize the intestinal immune system and favor the flora control, reducing the incidence of infections. This is due to the fact that probiotics increase the levels of circulating lymphocytes and cytokines, which stimulate phagocytosis. Prebiotics, on the other hand, increase the release of high levels of lactic acid and promote a consequent reduction in colonic pH.

The synergistic action of selectively selected microorganisms on symbiotic compounds also favors the quantity, bioavailability and digestibility of dietary nutrients, due to decrease in intestinal pH, the presence of iron lactate in the intestine or by the release of various enzymes in the intestinal lumen by lactic bacteria, exerting synergistic effects on digestion and relieving symptoms of absorption deficiency of various nutrients.

FUNCTIONAL FOODS

Functional foods can be defined as those that provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition, including fortified, enriched or improved foods that have a potentially beneficial effect on health when consumed as part of a varied diet on a regular basis at effective levels.