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Chr. Hansen’s world-class microbiome research labs

- where we get to know our probiotics and the science behind them

Scientist working with microbiome science in the lab
5 Min read

At Chr. Hansen, we have world-class labs in which we conduct exciting experiments with our probiotic strains. Some of the equipment we use mimics the human digestive system, so we can investigate what happens to probiotic bacteria in the stomach, small intestine and colon. We use these specialized systems to manipulate different conditions in order to discover how probiotic strains work in various situations.

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Probiotics in the gastrointestinal tract

To better understand the potential health benefits of probiotic bacteria, it is imperative to understand how individual probiotic strains work. Different probiotic strains work in different ways and in different parts of the digestive system. The journey through the digestive system begins when probiotic bacteria enter the mouth (for instance in a probiotic dietary supplement or a yogurt). They must first survive the acidity of the stomach; they then travel through the small intestine where they may support healthy immune function.1-10 They then enter the large intestine where they help support a healthy microbiome, immune function and the gut barrier.1-10 

We use advanced technology to mimic the human body

In our labs, we have specialized equipment that enables us to study individual probiotic strains in systems that simulate the human body. By mimicking the human body in these simulated systems, we can learn more about how the different probiotic strains may work to exert their beneficial effects.

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We learn about probiotics and the upper digestive system using TIM-1 – an artificial digestive system 

The TIM-1 system is an artificial gut system that mimics the stomach and upper small intestine of the human digestive system. It accurately replicates the movement, actions, and environment of the stomach and small intestine. This powerful system helps us understand how probiotic strains can travel and survive through the stomach and upper small intestine. The model is flexible and can be used to simulate different situations, for instance, it can replicate the digestive system of an adult, child or baby. We can set it to simulate what happens after a meal or during a state of fasting. With this system, we can control multiple variables which helps us understand what happens when probiotic bacteria pass through the stomach and small intestine. 

We investigate how probiotics interact with the large intestine using the TIM-2 system

The TIM-2 system replicates a portion of the large intestine, also known as the human colon. By using fecal material from test volunteers and study participants, the microbiomes of infants and adults can be studied under different conditions. The TIM-2 system runs its experiments over several days. During this time, what happens to the composition of different bacteria in the microbiome can be studied. The TIM-2 enables us to understand how the microbiome supports human health, increasing our understanding of how the microbiome behaves and functions as a whole.  

How probiotics interact with the immune system is another area we study 

We also work with human blood collected from blood banks and healthy volunteer donors. Using a very specialized method, we use the blood to study specific parts of the immune system that play an important role when the immune system meets and responds to a challenge. In our labs, we are able to combine a probiotic strain with these specific immune system cells to investigate the potential impact probiotic bacteria have on the immune system.

Scientists working with probiotics and microbiome science in the lab

Probiotic strains use prebiotics to grow

Other work we do involves growing probiotic strains in different conditions to see how well they use specific prebiotics for growth. Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) are a type of prebiotic that we particularly focus on. When we study specific probiotic strains in-depth, we often observe that although the strains contain the right genes and machinery to be able to use specific HMOs and other prebiotics, they don’t necessarily function in that way. To investigate how well a specific probiotic might utilize a specific prebiotic, we use an anaerobic chamber to mimic the atmosphere of the large intestine/colon to grow the probiotic bacteria. 

Reliable and reproducible microbiome science data

The lab work we do with these specialized systems allows us to look at how probiotic bacteria work in different life stages and ages and under different conditions in an efficient and non-intrusive manner. This technology allows us to build a greater understanding of how and why probiotic bacteria support different aspects of human health.


TIM-1 and TIM-2 – the TIM company (NL)


The article is provided for informational purposes regarding probiotics and is not meant to suggest that any substance referenced in the article is intended to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent any disease.

References Open Close

1. Hojsak I, et al. Lactobacillus GG in the prevention of gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections in children who attend day care centers: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Clin Nutr. 2010;29(3):312-6. (PubMed)
2. Rizzardini G, et al. Evaluation of the immune benefits of two probiotic strains Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis, BB-12® and Lactobacillus paracasei ssp. paracasei, L. casei 431® in an influenza vaccination model: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Br J Nutr. 2012;107(6):876-84. (PubMed)
3. Trachootham D, et al. Drinking fermented milk containing Lactobacillus paracasei 431 (IMULUS) improves immune response against H1N1 and cross-reactive H3N2 viruses after influenza vaccination: A pilot randomized triple-blinded placebo controlled trial. J Funct Foods. 2017;33:1-10. (Source)
4. de Vrese M, et al. Probiotic bacteria stimulate virus-specific neutralizing antibodies following a booster polio vaccination. Eur J Nutr. 2005;44(7):406-13. (PubMed)
5. Smith TJ, et al. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG® and Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis BB-12® on health-related quality of life in college students affected by upper respiratory infections. The British journal of nutrition. 2013;109(11):1999-2007. (PubMed)
6. Biggerstaff M, et al. Systematic Assessment of Multiple Routine and Near Real-Time Indicators to Classify the Severity of Influenza Seasons and Pandemics in the United States, 2003-2004 Through 2015-2016. Am J Epidemiol. 2018;187(5):1040-50. (PubMed)
7. Putri WCWS, et al. Economic burden of seasonal influenza in the United States. Vaccine. 2018;36(27):3960-6. (PubMed)
8. Jespersen L, et al. Effect of Lactobacillus paracasei subsp. paracasei, L. casei 431 on immune response to influenza vaccination and upper respiratory tract infections in healthy adult volunteers: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;101(6):1188-96. (PubMed)
9. Davidson LE, et al. Lactobacillus GG as an immune adjuvant for live-attenuated influenza vaccine in healthy adults: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2011;65(4):501-7. (PubMed)
10. Hojsak I, et al. Lactobacillus GG in the prevention of nosocomial gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections. Pediatrics. 2010;125(5):e1171-7. (PubMed)

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