Healthier guts through prebiotics made by fungal enzymes.

Stimulating a healthy gut microbiome by using specific prebiotics generated by fungal enzymes

The common prebiotics in use are oligosaccharides, obtained by hydrolysis of polysaccharides or synthesis from monosaccharides. Most commercially available prebiotic oligosaccharides are undefined mixtures of complex carbohydrates, and it is unknown whether they contribute to its beneficial effects. This project aims to determine whether defined oligosaccharide mixtures more efficiently stimulate a healthy gut microbiome than random oligosaccharide mixtures. For this, the Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute, a renowned fungal expertise center, has teamed up with DSM, a global leader in human and animal nutrition and health, in a novel public private partnership.

The potential social and economic impact of this project are significant. Alternatives for animal-based food are urgently needed and therefore developed by many companies, including DSM. Society also requests nutritious and healthy foods that prevent disease, and prebiotics can be a main element of that. This project has the potential of opening up a new approach to develop alternative healthy foods.

To enable the production of reproducible defined oligosaccharide mixtures, they will employ novel fungal enzymes that have a high specificity for specific linkages in polysaccharides. In contrast to commonly used commercially enzymes and enzyme mixtures that cut at many positions in the polysaccharides, these novel enzymes are more selective resulting in a lower variation in the set of oligosaccharides produced. The generated oligosaccharide mixtures will be added to a mixture of gut-microorganisms to evaluate their influence on the composition of the mixture over time as well as gas production, a major factor causing bowl irritation.

The project is expected to provide data on the type of oligosaccharides produced that could have a positive effect on health, thereby creating a new approach to producing foods with health benefits.

Diet is an important factor in our health and can both cause and prevent diseases. Prebiotics are instrumental to stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut microbiome into a good direction. Commercial prebiotic oligosaccharides are mostly undefined mixtures. This project will use specific fungal enzymes to obtain defined but diverse oligosaccharide mixtures.
Technology Readiness Level (TRL)
1 - 2
Time period
12 months