Spotlight on Functional Immune Health

A SupplySide Intensive Featuring Innovative Immune Support Ingredient IMMUSE™

Functional immune health was the spotlight of a recent SupplySide Sponsored Intensive hosted by Natural Products Insider. Highlighting the consumer demand for diverse science-backed strategies for year-round immune health, the webinar featured presentations from ingredient manufacturers changing the landscape of the functional immune health market.

Kyowa Hakko USA’s VP of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs, Danielle Citrolo gave an exciting presentation on IMMUSE™ — an innovative immune support ingredient backed by extensive scientific research. It’s a unique strain of lactic acid bacteria that has been heat-treated, making the immune health ingredient a postbiotic that’s safe, stable and easy to work with. IMMUSE can be formulated into functional beverages, powder mixes, tablets, gummies and more, offering consumers a variety of delivery methods.

“IMMUSE has a very unique mechanism. It activates what is called the plasmacytoid dendritic cells, and we consider these the leader of the immune system. We think it’s a really innovative and amazing breakthrough in the approach to immunity and well-being,” Citrolo told attendees.

Responsive vs. Defensive Immune Health Ingredients

In order to understand where IMMUSE falls on the landscape of the immune health ingredient market, Citrolo explained that most immune supporting ingredients fall into one of two categories: defensive or responsive.

In general, we tend to be more familiar with defensive immune supporting ingredients, like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, that enhance the nutrition of immune cells, helping to keep them as healthy as possible. “In understanding IMMUSE, we think of these as defensive. On the flipside there are ingredients coming onto the market that are a little more proactive and create an immune system that can be a little more responsive to invaders,” explained Citrolo.

IMMUSE falls into the latter category, along with some conventional probiotics, beta glucans and mushroom extracts, that proactively support the immune system. IMMUSE, however, has been shown to provide more comprehensive immune support due to its very unique mechanism of action.

A Unique Mechanism of Action for More Comprehensive Immune Support

The immune system is comprised of a variety of immune cell types, each with their highly specialized role in the immune response. Citrolo compared them to specialists in a hospital setting — experts at their specific functions, immune cells are very hyper-focused on what they have to do. “But it’s really important to have a leader. Someone who is organizing and orchestrating the whole response, to make sure we can really have a comprehensive impact on the whole body,” she explained.

Enter: plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs). Years of research on pDCs indicate that the rare cells act as leaders of the immune system, recruiting other immune cell types and coordinating a full immune system response.

Research has shown that pDCs have a few different mechanisms: (1) they detect harmful invaders; (2) they present antigens to the appropriate immune cells; and (3) they secrete INFa, an important signaling molecule that activates other immune cell types (mainly NK cells, killer T cells, helper T cells and B cells) for a more comprehensive immune response.

It was the third mechanism that scientists at Kirin, Kyowa Hakko’s parent company in Japan, were most interested in. Understanding the important of pDCs in the immune response, they set out to discover an ingredient that would activate these rare cells. After testing hundreds of bacteria strains, which had little effect on pDCs, they found IMMUSE (LC-plasma). In vitro, pDCs where very interested in interacting with particles of IMMUSE, engulfing and taking them in.

“We believe that’s due to the genetic material within IMMUSE,” Citrolo explained. “We believe that the DNA within the cell of IMMUSE specifically interacts with toll-like receptor 9, which is known to activate the pDC cells. So we know we are activating these important cells at the genetic level.”

The result, a more comprehensive immune response.

Learn More About pDCs Vital Role in the Immune System

Backed by Scientific Clinical Studies

Not only does IMMUSE offer more comprehensive immune support, the immune health ingredient is backed by a lot of scientific research, including 15 clinical studies demonstrating the ingredients safety and efficacy (which is a major advantage of having already been on the Japanese market for over 10 years).

During the webinar, Citrolo only had time to share data from 3 of the human trials, including an epidemiology study with elementary school children and a randomized control trial with athletes in training from a university sports club.

  1. The first clinical study she shared was a large-scale study with 213 healthy volunteers divided into two groups: those who took a placebo and those who took 50 mg/daily of IMMUSE. After ten weeks, the study showed that IMMUSE reduced both the cumulative days and severity of symptoms when compared to a placebo.
  2. The epidemiology study shared by Citrolo compared cumulative rate of absence among school children who consumed IMMUSE 3 times a week for 10 weeks and children from a neighboring town who did not have an intervention. Data from the study showed that IMMUSE reduce absence compared to the neighboring town.
  3. The last study she presented evaluated IMMUSE’s impact on fatigue and body conditioning among university students in athletic training, and found that two weeks of taking IMMUSE daily significantly reduced the number of days athletes felt fatigued and improved physical conditions. It also reduced upper respiratory symptoms.

“What we found is that overall the group that took IMMUSE reported better physical condition; better training, less fatigue and it really correlated with the fact that there was less upper respiratory symptoms,” explained Citrolo.

Download IMMUSE™ Scientific Advantage Whitepaper

IMMUSE Immune Support Claims

The VP of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs went on to share that Kyowa Hakko USA works on claims for their customers. “We look at the science, we look at the regulatory kinds of things, and we give you (suggested) claims to go to market with,” she explained. Below are some examples:

  • IMMUSE™ provides clinically researched immune support
  • IMMUSE™ activats pDCs
  • IMMUSE™ proactively supports the immune system
  • Immune support for year-round health
  • Proactive immune support
  • More comprehensive immune support
  • Your immune advantage
  • Postbiotic for immune support


To watch Citrolo’s full presentation at the SupplySide Sponsored Intensive: Functional Immune Health by clicking the button below.

Watch the Functional Immune Health Webinar

Are you a manufacturer looking to differentiate your next immune health product? Visit our For Manufacturer’s page to learn more about award-winning IMMUSE and partnering with Kyowa Hakko USA.