The Big C(heese)

Nisin-treated biofilm Source: Dr. Yvonne Kapila

Nisin-treated biofilm
Source: Dr. Yvonne Kapila

Is cheese the answer to a longer life? Well, it appears that it just might brie, er, be.  Recent research from the University of Michigan has revealed that nisin, a naturally-occurring food preservative that commonly grows in cheese and other dairy products, kills both cancer cells and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA.

Now, before you start “working on your night cheese” à la Liz Lemon, you should know that this was a small-scale study conducted on mice dosed with large, concentrated amounts of nisin—a “nisin milkshake”, to be exact. If humans were fed the same “milkshake” it would contain nisin amounts 20 times what’s typically found in a serving of cheese. Still, the results are promising—70-80% of the rodents’ cancerous head and neck tumor cells died after nine weeks, considerably extending the animals’ survival.

Although less is understood about Nisin’s lethal relationship with cancer, past research has determined that its role as a superbug assassin is two-fold. First, it quickly binds to bacteria, allowing it to work before the bacteria have an opportunity to develop potentially antibiotic-resistant properties. Next, nisin also kills bacterial “biofilms”, which are colonies of bacteria that join together to thwart antibiotics. As researcher Dr. Yvonne Kapila highlighted in her study findings, no one has yet discovered a bacterium in humans or animals that is resistant to nisin, making it stand the test of time as a treatment.  “Mother Nature has done a lot of the research for us; it’s been tested for thousands of years,” said Kapila.

More research is needed to determine exactly if and how nisin can best be used in human medical applications to fight disease, but the research done so far on the biomedical use of nisin is promising. Regardless, this is the kind of gouda news that makes just about everyone feel a whole lot cheddar.

A Picture of Amanda Sasse

About Amanda Sasse

Manager of Web Marketing & Strategic Relationships, Nelson-Jameson, Inc.
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