The Preferred Biotech Resource in Asia-Pacific
Vol 19, No 07, July 2015
Biotech in China
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Yakult Honsha and JAXA collaborate on research of the effect by probiotics on human immune function and gut microbiota
Yakult Honsha and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have reached an agreement to start a joint research in the International Space Station (ISS).

This research hopes to contribute to the health care of astronauts and the development of life science in the coming space age by scientifically studying the effect by probiotics on human immune function and gut microbiota of astronauts, who stay in space for long periods. It is also aimed at making contributions to promote people's health in general by utilizing the knowledge thus gained in the joint research for development of probiotics research on the ground.

The key research items are detailed below.

  • Study of the effect by probiotics on human immune function and gut microbiota in a microgravity environment in a confined microgravity environment (space)

  • Assessing the on-board safety, operability of live bacteria (Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota) and acquisition of related technical knowledge
Astronauts work in space, which is an extreme working environment of microgravity inside a closed spacecraft, and they are known to experience deterioration of immune function as well asbone density and muscular atrophy. In order to ensure a successful manned space flight, it is necessary to maintain the mental and physical health of the astronauts to enable them to fully demonstrate their capability. As one of the measures to tackle such issues, JAXA has been examining utilization of functional space food incorporating probiotics among other ingredients. Space development organizations in other countries are also about to embark on similar research.

For these reasons, Yakult and JAXA reached an agreement to embark on the joint research on probiotics in humans in space ahead of other countries.

The joint research is aimed at scientific examination of the influence of continuous consumption on the immune function and gut microbiota of astronauts stationed at ISS for a long period. They are also aiming to expand its scope to study how the impact of probiotic changes in outer space. The joint research, which combines the expertise Yakult has acquired over the years in gut microbiota research with JAXA's space biomedical research-related knowledge and laboratory technique in space, aims to not only allow astronauts to demonstrate their capabilities to the full extent but also contribute to the advancement of space medicine, often termed as ultimate preventive medicine, which is also expected to be applied on the ground.

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