An evaluation of the immunological activities of commercially available β1, 3-glucans


β1,3-glucan’s role as a biologically active immunomodulator has been well documented for over 40 years. Interest in the immunomodulatory properties of polysaccharides was initially raised after experiments showing that a crude yeast cell preparation stimulated macrophages via activation of the complement system.1 Further work identified the immunomodulatory active component as β1,3-glucan.2 Numerous studies (currently more than 1,600 publications) have subsequently shown that β1,3-glucans, either particulate or soluble, exhibit immunostimulating properties, including antibacterial and anti-tumor activities.3,4 Despite extensive investigations, no consensus on the source, size and other biochemical or physicochemical properties of β1,3-glucan has been achieved. In addition, numerous concentrations and routes of administration have been tested – including oral, intraperitoneal, subcutaneous and intravenous applications. This fact, together with the fact that there are probably more than a hundred different samples on the US market alone, leads to confusion about the quality, biological effects, and overall efficiency of glucan. Therefore, we decided to compare the basic immunological activities of a group of glucans. The list of products chosen came from those heavily advertised, commonly available and easily obtained in the US, Europe, Southeast Asia and Japan. In order to be certain that we are measuring the effects of glucan only, we picked the commercial samples with glucan (either from one source or a mixture of different glucans) as the only active ingredient. The collection of tested biological reactions (phagocytosis, surface markers on splenocytes, cytokine synthesis, and stimulation of antibody response) represents both the humoral and cellular branches of the immune reaction, thus offering insight as to the immunological activities of studied glucans.


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