In the middle of the 1980’s, two researchers, Stefan Lange and Ivar Lönnroth, identified a naturally occurring protein that protects against diarrhoea in rats, when they are challenged with cholera toxin. The discovery led to experiments in humans.
The newly discovered protein, which was given the name Antisecretory factor (AF), has been shown to play an important role in fluid and ion transport across the cell membrane in various organs of the body.
The discovery made by the Gothenburg researchers, has created opportunities for successfully treating a wide array of serious disease conditions with AF. Among other things, it has been shown that by giving specially processed cereals, the body can increase its production of AF, with positive effects.
Solid basic research and ”lucky timing” is behind the success of Antisecretory factor
The discovery of AF, Antisecretory factor, was the beginning of a unique and exiting journey. More than 20 years of Swedish basic research is behind the discovery of this naturally occurring protein that has shown the strongest known effect on different types of secretion.
But the development of today’s treatments with AF has also been aided by coincidence and unexpected connections, which so often is the case for medical progress.
Farm Dr. Jan G. Bruhn will here provide the background for the success of AF.
Natural product expert
Protein AF has a pronounced effect in normalizing an impaired fluid balance, and in normalizing different types of secretion in connection with a range of very different disease conditions such as diarrhoea, inflammatory bowel disease, and Méniére’s disease.
Protein AF even has anti-inflammatory properties, something that explains the positive effect on engorgement in lactating mothers, among other things.
The production of AF can be stimulated using specially processed oatmeal. One of Sweden’s leading experts on herbal medicines is Jan G. Bruhn, Farm Dr. in pharmacognosy, which is the science of natural products that have a medicinal use.
– At the time I had finished my doctoral dissertation, which was about kemin in Mexican cactuses, I had difficulty finding work within my specialty. In stead, I “interned” as an office director at the Consumer Agency and as Editor in Chief for the Swedish Pharmaceutical Journal. It was really very rewarding, Jan G. Bruhn emphasizes.
– The area of natural remedies had low status in Sweden a generation ago. But then we became a member of the EU and suddenly continental influences and directives were streaming into our country.
– My special skills, that previously had been ignored, suddenly became hard currency. As one of the few Swedish experts in the area I was in demand as a consultant and lecturer in the field of natural remedies.
Along the path to successful treatments with AF, an event happened that gave AF a major boost, tells Jan G. Bruhn.
– About the time of the discovery of AF in Gothenburg, a prohibition against antibiotic additions to animal feed was introduced. The result was that many pigs developed diarrhoea and died. Lantmännen was searching all over for a solution and realized that AF was the right one.
– At an early stage I came in contact with Lars Sjöstrand at Lantmännen, the company of Swedens Agricultural Corporation, who at the time was mostly engaged in finding an alternative to antibiotics for piglets. With a starting point in the positive experiences of the Gothenburg researchers and Lantmännen’s own knowledge – concentrated basic research and clinical studies in humans happened. The result was the medical foods SPC-Flakes and and Salovum, a breakfast cereal and an egg yolk powder respectively.
– We were also fortunate at the right moment, to get in contact with the knowledgeable Roland Sandström, who proved to have the right background to handle these very special products. His company POA Pharma AB in Gothenburg handles the marketing of SPC-Flakes and Salovum today.
Sweden became a member of the EU in 1995. This resulted in Sweden joining the EU regulations that classifies natural remedies as natural medicines.
– This was changed on May 1 2006 when a new EU-directive about so called “tradional herbal remedies” was incorporated in Swedish law. With this law change, a new category of medicines was created.
But already in the year 2001, another EU-directive was introduced: “Foods for special medical purposes”, also called informally; “medical foods”. It is a subgroup of dietary foods for special medical purposes.
– SPC-Flakes and Salovum became the first products in Europe within this category, says Jan G. Bruhn.
Lars Sjøstrand, managing director of Lantmännen AS Factor tells of an interesting event.
– A therapy area for the AF products is Ménière’s disease, a condition with vertigo attacks, nausea, tinnitus and hearing loss. A number of patients with this condition took part in a clinical trial at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg at the end of the 1990’s. The trial was led by then Head of clinic, associate professor Per Hanner.
– One of the trial subjects reported that he with AF-treatment not only had good results on the myriad of Ménière symptoms that the patient went through, but it also had a beneficial effect on the diarrhoea that the patient said “often came at the same time”. The observation gave basis for the hypothesis that Ménière has an element of impairing fluid balance in the inner ear.
– Protein AF has, as we now understand, only one function, namely to normalize fluid and ion transport across the biological cell membrane. We have found the protein that normalizes secretion in the cell and thereby the immune system of the body can fight the inflammation.
– I scarcely have to point out that the story about Antisecretory factor has only come a little way. New and exciting opportunities are waiting round the corner Lars Sjöstrand finishes.Leave a reply →