"Super leaves": Leafy Vegetable with Probiotic Bacteria

Shoseyov Oded, HUJI, Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences, Plant Sciences and Genetics
Schwartz Betty, HUJI, Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences, Biochemistry, Food Science and Nutrition
Iasur Kruh Lilach, Braude College of Engineering, Department of Biotechnology Engineering



Agriculture, Food & Nutrition


Probiotics, Vegetables, FoodTech

Current development stage

General list: TRL4 Technology validated in lab          

Collaboration Opportunity

Sponsored Research with an option to License Research Results


Probiotics are live ‘healthy’ bacteria that are critical to healthy gut performance and are sometimes used to enhance digestion. Prebiotics are compounds in food that facilitate the growth or activity of probiotic microorganisms. Synbiotics is a mixture of probiotics and prebiotics that are more active together,  then each one alone. Studies have shown the effect of synbiotic intake in maintaining a balanced intestinal flora, and in inhibition of pathogen growth, hence, improving intestinal disorders and promoting the host’s well-being.

The global probiotics market was valued at $ 570 million in 2018 and will reach $ 840 million by the end of 2025, growing at a CAGR of 5.0% during 2019-2025.

To date, there are the two main avenues to deliver probiotics bacteria to people and animals, either via dairy products and/or probiotic capsules. Both of these delivery mechanisms have disadvantages including lactose intolerance (dairy) and a limitation to gram-positive bacteria (capsules). We have developed an alternative means of probiotics delivery that has not been utilized to date.

Endophytes are type of bacteria inhabiting the inner plant tissue without causing any harm.  As such if probiotic bacteria could be transformed into endophytes, then edible plants can be used to deliver probiotics to people and animals.

Our Innovation

The researchers have shown in proof of concept studies, using alfalfa as a model crop, that it is possible to take probiotic bacteria and to transform them into plant endophytes that can live happily inside the green leafy tissue -- thereby delivering probiotics to people and animals who ingest the edible plant. This concept can be replicated in other edible plants and has the following advantages:

  • Vegan friendly
  • Non-Dairy
  • No refrigeration needed (unlike dairy products)
  • Part of a healthy vegetable diet
  • Proven to colonize and improve bowel inflammation in mice model


The proof of concept study with alfalfa showed that 100% of the sprouts contained the probiotic endophytes. The probiotic bacteria survived inside the plant for at least 14 days post- harvest.

Mouse studies showed that the number of probiotic bacteria in mice stool (qPCR method) was significantly higher than in control groups, after the mice were fed with alfalfa sprouts enriched with probiotic bacteria, figure below.




The researchers are looking for an industry partner to commercialize the findings in alfalfa. This industry partner would also sponsor further R&D for developing additional probiotic vegetables.


A patent has been filed WO/2019/198079 for this technology.


Patent Status

Published US 2021/0030819 A1

Contact for more information:

Ilya Pittel