Probiotics, often hailed as “beneficial bacteria,” have been given a transformative touch by Russian scientists. At the forefront of this revolution is Dr. Chikindas, whose groundbreaking work at the Health Promoting Naturals Laboratory at Rutgers University opens new avenues for human health.
The journey into microbiology
From his childhood, Dr. Chikindas was captivated by “little creatures.” This curiosity evolved as he ventured into food science, unveiling the intricate relationship between microorganisms and human health. This discovery sparked his investigation into the beneficial and harmful microbes found in dairy and probiotics.
From Europe to Rutgers
Housed within Rutgers is the esteemed New Jersey Institute for Food and Health, equipped with pioneering tools such as the SHIME — a simulator of the human gut. Under Dr. Chikindas’ leadership, the Health Promoting Naturals Laboratory uses these tools to delve into nature-derived antimicrobials and health-promoting bacteria. Their aim is to develop new probiotics, treatments, and products that effectively control harmful microorganisms across various settings.
Antimicrobial proteins, nature’s first line of defense against invaders, serve roles ranging from signaling and protection to competition. Dr. Chikindas underscores that all living beings produce a plethora of these proteins. These beneficial microbes are omnipresent, from the foods we consume to our very own bodily microbiomes.
A truly global career
Dr. Chikindas’ Food Microbiology course at Rutgers fosters international exchange by encouraging students to present on fermented foods from their native countries. His lab has turned into a global hotspot, welcoming visitors and scholars from across the globe.
Dr. Chikindas’ collaborations span continents. In Armenia, he explored the region’s unique dairy cultures in partnership with Yerevan State University. Meanwhile, in Russia, a partnership with the Southern Federal University delved into the potential of probiotics in poultry farming, aiming to replace antibiotics in feed with probiotic materials to foster muscle growth in poultry. Both projects underscored the power of global collaboration in science.
Combating radiation damage
Addressing the health challenges posed by natural radiation in Armenia, Dr. Chikindas and his peers are investigating the protective qualities of probiotics. Their primary objective is to enhance the population’s health status and reduce the risk of mutations. By pinpointing specific probiotics with these protective properties, there’s hope to significantly alleviate the health issues caused by natural radiation.
Harnessing probiotics in aquaculture
Dr. Chikindas, in collaboration with Yerevan State University, is also researching how these beneficial microorganisms can be used in farming practices, particularly in aquaculture. Early findings suggest that probiotics can help improve the health and resilience of farmed fish, potentially increasing yield and reducing dependence on chemicals and antibiotics.
Bridging the gap between theory and application
Beyond foundational research, Dr. Chikindas believes in the practical implementation of his findings. He’s actively establishing ties with leading Russian probiotics manufacturers and dairy culture producers. This synergy allows his students and researchers to access real-world applications and to study the commercial viability of new probiotic strains and their potential in global markets.
Wine and the future of collaborations
Dr. Chikindas is not one to rest on his laurels. His vision for future collaborations extends to the ancient winemaking traditions of Armenia. Recognizing the rich 6,000-year-old heritage of Armenian winemaking and New Jersey’s burgeoning wine industry, he sees an opportunity for synergy. Collaborations focusing on grape genetics, cultivation techniques, and fermentation processes could not only enhance the quality and diversity of wines, but also offer sustainable solutions to the challenges faced by the wine industry.
Probiotics, once seen as mere supplements, are being heralded as the future of health, agriculture, and even winemaking, thanks to visionaries like Dr. Chikindas. His work at Rutgers University and collaborations worldwide are a testament to the boundless potential of these “little creatures.” As we uncork the secrets held by these microscopic entities, the future seems not only promising, but also filled with possibilities of healthier lives and a more sustainable world.