Lactoferrin is an important iron-binding protein with many health benefits. The major form of this powerful protein, is secreted into human biofluids (e.g. milk, blood, tears, saliva), and is responsible for most of the host-defense properties. Because of the many beneficial activities associated with it, researchers are starting to use lactoferrin as a potential therapeutic protein. And, in contrast to many other therapeutic proteins, which need to be injected into patients, lactoferrin can be orally active. Lactoferrin is the subject of the upcoming June issue of the journal Biochemistry and Cell Biology.
"We now know that lactoferrin is a protein that has many functions in innate immunity and that it plays a role in protecting us from bacterial, viral, fungal, and protozoal infections. It can even protect us from some forms of cancer," says special issue guest editor Dr. Hans Vogel, a professor at the University of Calgary. "Some people describe this protein as the 'Swiss army knife' of the human host defense system. In part it does all this by binding iron, but many other properties of the protein contribute to its function."
This special issue comprises 27 articles and review papers contributed by leading international researchers. The role of lactoferrin on skin wound healing; impacts of lactoferrin on small intestinal growth and development during early life; and use of bovine lactoferrin on the inhibition of influenza and in the prevention of preterm delivery associated with sterile inflammation are among the studies presented.
One important contribution, already published online, is from a Chinese research group led by Professor Ning Li in Beijing. It shows that consumption of milk containing increased levels of the lactoferrin protein modulates the composition of the gut microflora, which in turn promotes health. This research relies on extensive biochemistry and molecular biology to produce the protein and to analyze the changes in the composition of the gut flora. While the article describes an animal model study, the results can probably be extended to humans.
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