Therapeutic Activity of Probiotics

Probiotics are living microorganisms. Consumers eat them in dairy products and value them for their health benefits. A companion article (see The Probiotic Nature of Normal Microflora on Page 41) discusses the role of probiotics and normal microflora in maintaining homeostasis in human intestines and on human skin and mucosa. This column discusses mechanisms by which probiotics provide therapeutic activity in the intestines, where most of the research has been done, and on the skin, where more research is needed.

One goal of this column is to point out that many of the identified actions of probiotics are already being performed by the normal microflora of skin and mucous membranes. A second goal is to suggest that formulators recognize opportunities for making products that modulate the normal microflora. This will help maintain the health and/or improve the appearance of skin and mucous membranes.

Figure 1a illustrates schematically how bacteria or toxins may interact with a cell. By attaching to a cell membrane receptor, they initiate a sequence of intracellular reactions that result in the release of nuclear factor kappa-beta (NF-κß) from its inactive form with its inhibitor (NF-κß-I) to produce the active molecule that migrates to the nucleus and directs synthesis of inflammatory cytokines (IL-1, TNFα, IL-8) and initiates apoptosis.

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