Lactoferrin at a glace

Lactoferrin is a multifunctional iron-binding glycoprotein of the transferrin family. As part of the innate immune system, it is found in all mammals and is formed by different cells of the body (glandular cells and neutrophil granulocytes). It has been part of the mammalian immune system for 160 million years and is thus firmly anchored in evolution [1]. Lactoferrin occurs in high concentrations in milk, but also in other protective membranes and body fluids, such as tears, saliva, sweat, nasal, intestinal and vaginal secretions [2].
This immune protein is a main research focus in various scientific investigations. As a result, Lactoferrin has demonstrated many properties, especially those concerning the function of the immune system.
It influences inflammatory regulation, modulates the immune system for „economical“ functionality and has an antimicrobial effect [3]. Lactoferrin can directly influence the course of inflammation [4], regulate the immune system, plus it shows anti-inflammatory [5] and antioxidant properties.

Lactoferrin – The „Red Protein“

Lactoferrin has been a part of evolution for 160 million years and has been part of the human immune system for around 75 million years.  It was discovered in 1939 in cow’s milk and first isolated in the 1960s [6]. Since then, intensive research has been carried out on Lactoferrin. The name indicates its origins: „Lacto“ refers to „milk“, along with its characteristics: „Ferrin“ refers to „iron“.  As part of the immune system and as a transport protein for iron, Lactoferrin has enormous potential in science and research, to develop specific applications for prophylaxis and therapy. Due to its colour, it is also referred to as the „red protein“.

High therapeutic potential

Lactoferrin has a high therapeutic potential for a wide variety of applications [7].

Regulation of the immune system

  • It supports and strengthens the immune system by its immunomodulating properties 
  • Lactoferrin has regulating effects on the T-helper cells.  Immune cells can be brought into balance 
  • This balance can be impaired by chronic stress 

Antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties

  • Lactoferrin can attack and damage microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. The type of lactoferrin secretion correlates with its function: direct antimicrobial activities in body fluids and on the surface of the skin and mucous membranes, as well as the regulation of the inflammatory reaction caused by infections.

Support for beneficial symbiotic microorganisms

  • Just as the ability to impair harmful bacteria is important, so is the fact that the growth of the microbiome is also supported (microbiome = total of all microorganisms present at the body’s barriers) 
  • .  These microorganisms (intestinal bacteria, etc.) set the course for an optimal immune defence. A large number of modern diseases have been shown to be associated with imbalances in the microbiome 

Iron binding and iron regulation

  • Lactoferrin has the ability to bind iron and regulate it in the body. A very important function when it comes to depriving harmful bacteria of a nutrient source 

Inflammation regulation

  • Lactoferrin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that are fundamental in  importance, since almost all modern diseases are associated with an increased tendency to inflammation 
The potential for future therapeutic applications is immense. Since disorders of the immune system are the basis of almost all chronic diseases, Lactoferrin has almost universal application as a supplement.