Lactoferrin - the "miracle molecule" for every phase of life

The human body is exposed to harmful influences such as environmental pollutants, toxins, pathogens and disease processes throughout its lifespan. Therefore, there is great interest in and need for appropriate therapeutics.
Recently, the Kowalczyk et al.[1] research group published an exciting article on lactoferrin as a "miracle molecule" that highlights the broad spectrum of lactoferrin's protective role in health and pathology at all stages of life. Lactoferrin has numerous beneficial properties - antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antiparasitic, as well as immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties - that may play an important role in maintaining health from the foetus to old age.
Basically, the question is often asked whether lactoferrin can affect the body at all due to the human digestive process. However, numerous scientific findings suggest that stable, immunologically active peptides are produced during digestion. In addition, numerous studies, including clinical studies, show that lactoferrin is effective after oral administration and can also enter the intestine.
Even before a human is born, lactoferrin plays a supportive role in ensuring normal tissue development of the foetus, firstly by ensuring adequate iron availability and absorption, and secondly by protecting against inflammation and infection.
Due to its immunomodulatory properties, lactoferrin has a protective effect with regard to the development of children, especially newborns and infants. Numerous clinical trials have been ongoing for years and have already shown protection against gastrointestinal infections, necrotic enteritis and sepsis. As an important part of innate immunity, lactoferrin enhances the action of antibodies and can have a regulatory effect on the production of inflammatory mediators, reactive oxygen species and other important cells of the immune system. In addition, the good tolerability shown in many studies supports its use in infants and young children.
Lactoferrin can also have a positive influence on human reproduction. Due to its probiotic effect, it offers protection for the lower genital tract in women and men. Especially in women, it can prevent the consequences of inflammation both before and during pregnancy and thus promote fertility. In addition to protecting the male genital tract against infections, lactoferrin can regulate the iron content in sperm and thus positively influence their quality.
The ageing process is a natural, complex phenomenon that increases susceptibility to the development of systemic diseases such as metabolic disorders (diabetes mellitus), cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, respiratory diseases, cancer or dementia. The pleiotropic "anti-ageing" effect of lactoferrin can positively influence the ageing process and its concomitant diseases through its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects, as well as by ensuring neuroprotection or alleviating mitochondrial dysfunction and systemic inflammation.
In particular, the anti-cancer effect of lactoferrin has been shown to be beneficial in colorectal cancer and childhood leukaemia.[2,3] This may be related to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect, which is why DNA damage and thus tumour development can be prevented.
But it is also possible to prevent the development of cancer by stimulating the adaptive immune response.
As already mentioned, widespread, often age-related diseases are Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. Lactoferrin may also act as a neuroprotective agent in these neurodegenerative conditions, which may help improve cognitive function and attenuate brain ageing. Discussed mechanisms explaining this effect include iron-regulating properties and the influence of lactoferrin on mitochondrial calcium homeostasis in degenerating dopaminergic neurons.
In summary, it is evident that lactoferrin has therapeutic potential for numerous disease conditions and is an important companion throughout the lifespan. Many other exciting pathophysiology’s were addressed in the paper and we are looking forward to further clinical research results on these, as many mechanisms have not yet been conclusively clarified.