Acquiring Optimal Immunity With Maitake Mushroom Fractions
Health issues with conditions such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, (Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus, or NIDDM), and Metabolic Syndrome X are truly plaguing our society! But so is cancer!!!!
We clearly need to define some terms that are frequently misunderstood and/or are generally misinterpreted. These will be referred to later in the article.
Body Mass Index (BMI): [Weight (kg) ÷ Height (m²)] The National Institutes of Health (NIH) now defines normal weight, overweight, and obesity by using BMI values rather than using the traditional height/weight ratio.
Obesity: This is a chronic condition which is defined as an excess of amount of body fat. Unless otherwise specified, adults having a BMI > 30 would be considered obese.
Insulin Resistance: The decreased ability of some, many, or even all cells of the body to respond properly to insulin.
Syndrome X: Also known as Metabolic Syndrome X, this is a cluster of metabolic risk factors that come together in a single individual. The main features of “MSX” are insulin resistance, hypertension, cholesterol “abnormalities”, an increased risk of blood clotting, abdominal obesity, elevated serum triglycerides, and hyperglycemia (of fasting glucose). These together, (or in a combination of 3 or more of them), define what “MSX” is and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (CD) and Type 2 diabetes (NIDDM). This syndrome has become an epidemic!
Free Radicals: Atoms (or groups of atoms) with an unpaired number of electrons that are formed when oxygen interacts with certain and various molecules. Once these highly reactive and unstable moieties are formed, they can [and do] attack and damage such cellular components as the cellular membranes and strands of DNA. (The use of “antioxidants” minimize and guard against this cellular damage and defend cells from direct attack of these radicals.)
The health hazards of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and Metabolic Syndrome X, (the“big 3″), are not just limited to the intrinsic characteristics of these specific conditions but actually extend much deeper into realms of the health gamut. These conditions, although they can be ultimately severe and life-threatening, can, (and do), act as springboards for many [even more] serious health compromises!
We know the potential health liabilities of the “big 3″, so we need not divulge into a discussion about them in this article…these will be explained in more detail in the November 2012 Issue of Nutricula Magazine…as November is American Diabetes Month and the theme will be “Battling Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome X“. What is not obvious to most people is that the “big 3′s” combined systemic, synergistic, and cumulative effects can be, amongst other things, most devastating to the immune system and can lead to many other devastating diseases, including many forms of cancer!
Examining the total effects of the “big 3′s” physiological compromises and their indirect effects on overall health and longevity, (even from the standpoint of a traditional “Western-Trained” Scientist and Researcher), it is quite obvious that we need to deal with this “cumulative health problem” using a more holistic approach if we are to be successful combatants. In-other-words, we need to look at the big picture!!!!
The Big Picture….IMMUNITY
There are many ways to acquire and/or to re-acquire optimal immunity. Two of these are; direct acquirement and indirect acquirement.
One of the best physiological acquisitions that one can secure is to retain and/or strengthen systemic immunity. We know that proper diet, rest and REM-sleep, regular exercise, and low “outside” stress variables are all positive factors for our immune systems. Unfortunately, although these factors are quite important as well as necessary, in today’s world, and having to face so many stressful and “immune-stripping” obstacles, to really insure that we are getting optimal protection, we also need to allow ourselves a source of direct protection for our immune system.
The isolation and use of various fractions (component parts), of many natural substances over recent years has opened up new means for the advancement of clinical technology. Some of these natural substances were discovered many years ago when scientists began isolating specific, powerful fractions of the Maitake mushroom, and for years, clinicians and researchers have been cognizant of their specific medicinal importance.
A quick review of some “Immunological” terms
Immunomodulation: The modification of the immune response and/or the functioning of the immune system by any or all immunomodulatory or regulatory actions or processes which keep it under control.
Macrophage: A type of white blood cell (WBC) which presents primarily in the bloodstream and in connective tissue. It’s function is to ingest/engulf foreign particles and infectious microorganisms by a process called “phagocytosis”.
Cytokine: A small protein secreted by specific cells of the immune system that carries signals to and between other cells. May also be described as a “signaling protein” for the purpose of “cell-to-cell” communication: an example: “Interferon”
Mast Cell: Also called a mastocyte, it is a resident cell of several types of tissues that contain histamine and heparin. It plays a significant role in allergy and anaphylaxis, as well as a protective role in wound healing and defense against invading pathogens.
Fibroblast: A type of cell that synthesizes the extracellular matrix and collagen, (the structural framework for animal tissue), that plays an integral role in wound healing and tissue repair. It is the most common cell in animal connective tissue.
This is the Maitake fraction that will be focused on in this article, and is an example of direct acquirement/protection of immunity. Direct acquisition of immune function and strengthening would be when something modulates the immune system, (i.e., immunomodulation), to directly control and propagate macrophages and/or cytokines, etc. for release either into the general circulation or to specific (targeted) receptor sites.
There is a protein-bound proteoglycan, (i.e., a beta-glucan), that scientists and researchers have discovered to be the most powerful immune-boosting and/or immune-modulating component present in the maitake mushroom; this isolated subunit is called the D-fraction.
Scientists initially focused on the ability of the D-Fraction to stimulate and/or (more accurately), immunomodulate a variety of “response” cells specific to the immune system such as natural killer cells, macrophages, T cells, interleukin 1 and 2, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α (1). Most important, scientists found certain cytokines, the chemical messengers of the immune response, to be highly stimulated (1).
Although it is now understood that the beta-glucan moiety is the major component of the maitake mushroom primarily responsible for its immune-modulating and anti-tumor effects, (of not only maitake but of other medicinally-functioning mushrooms as well), when taken orally, the isolated beta-glucans are not as “therapeutically active” as the maitake-conjugated form. Thus, the protein-bound beta-glucan (the proteoglucan or the D-fraction), is the most therapeutic form.
The D-fraction has been extensively tested and has been shown to be effective and most prominent in significantly modulating the immune response both systemically as well as at the cellular level.
In the field of modern molecular biology, one of the most versatile areas of oncology, molecular genetics, and immunology, is that which involves something called, “Gap Junctional Intercellular Communication” or GJIC. A Gap Junction, referred to as a “nexus”, is a specialized intercellular connection between the multitudes of animal cells which physically connects the cytoplasm of two cells and allows them to communicate with one another via the action of specific “information-carrying” molecules. A majority of these molecules are cytokines, and these cytokines can now freely pass their information/directive signals from one cell to another…thus,[once again], exemplifying the importance of the D-fraction and its metabolic/biochemical activities!
The D-fraction has been extensively studied, tested, and has proven it’s worth in inhibiting carcinogenesis (2), as well as in the growth and/or spread (metastasis) of malignant tumors (3).
The relationship: D-fraction and GJIC in fighting cancer
If the GJIC is disrupted or down regulated due to any possible “cell-to-cell” miscommunication or induced metabolic flaw, (whether it be through a genetic predisposition or environmental factors), because of the vital role that the GJIC plays in controlling cellular growth and cell differentiation, this type of interference or disruption would cause the GJIC to lose total metabolic and/or cellular control (4).
A loss of GJIC control would subsequently allow normal, healthy cells to grow in an uncontrolled fashion (without inhibition), which would cause cellular “non-differentiation“. Cells failing to differentiate leads to a type of primitive/wild-type cellular growth, mutation, and dysplasia, seen in malignancy (5-7). When this occurs, these “out-of-control, primitive, wild-type” cells will virtually establish a more “cancer-friendly” and less hostile environment for themselves (as well as for their rapidly dividing and spreading progeny), which would then allow the cancer cells to better communicate with one another…this we don’t want, because this would open the flood gates for cancer cells to establish new, unimpeded pathways for their “cancer-specific” kinase enzymes to direct cancer-specific cellular activity (5-7).
In order to combat this uncontrolled, neoplastic cellular growth, (or never allow it to happen at all), we must have a strong, healthy, properly functioning immune system which can only be attained by having, or taking back, complete control of the GJIC for normal cellular signaling and communication (8,9).
The induction of apoptosis (the self-destruction of cancer cells)(4), mast cell stimulation and fibroblast maintenance are other physiological activities that are positively affected by D-fraction function on the body.
The importance of cancer cell “non-suicide” is what it is…cells that are programmed not to die…now, by the action of the D-fraction, they are induced and re-programmed to die.
Mast cell function is important to maintain properly. Although anaphylaxis is a result of mast cell overstimulation, their innate actions are required for wound healing and pathogen-attack defense…D-fraction supports this function without overstimulation.
Finally, fibroblast function and health, which is so important for wound healing and tissue repair of connective tissue is also supported by the function of the D-fraction.
Thus, by supporting proper GJIC function, the D-fraction is undoubtedly a medicinally-valuable, life-saving moiety!
[Footnote: In 1998, the USDA approved an Investigational New Drug application (ING) for Maitake D-Fraction®.]
The use of the glycoprotein, Maitake SX-fraction, is an example of indirect acquisition of immunity. In-other-words, it performs duties in the body that, although it is known to modulate and improve the symptoms and effects of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and Metabolic Syndrome X, because by quelching the adverse sequelae of these conditions, it indirectly and/or simultaneously modulates/improves immune function.
We know that anything that will reduce the stress on our bodies and improve our overall health and chances of better longevity improves our immune function and our ability to ward off illness and disease. This is a given…and the SX-fraction does exactly this! Once again…not to jump too far ahead, but the chemistry and importance of the SX-fraction will be discussed in detail in the November 2012 Issue of this magazine.
The Question: How does the Body Mass Index (BMI), obesity, insulin-resistance, Metabolic Syndrome X, and free radicals, although of their obvious importance in metabolic issues, weight control, blood-glucose levels, and all-around body shape/appearance, (and so important when alluding to the use of the Maitake SX-fraction), play a role in immunity, fighting cancer, longevity, etc…and in the use of the Maitake D-fraction?
The Answer: We are not only “holistic creatures” but are also products of the “sum of our parts”…so to speak. Thus, anything that aids in the modulation and strengthening of our immune system, whether directly or indirectly, will make way for improving our BMI, increase lean body mass (and reduce obesity), allow our bodies greater insulin sensitivity (thus, better insulin response, efficiency, and metabolic control of blood-glucose levels), help to properly stabilize these sugar levels in our blood, and allow us to look more healthy and feel much better.
Anything that can put one’s BMI into or even close to a healthy range is good…a goal to aim for, if one is considered obese by definition, whether male or female, would be to attain a BMI<30. If this can be attained, one would no longer be technically considered obese, and then the goal would be to replace this lost fatty tissue with lean body (muscle) tissue.
The more fatty tissue that is replaced by muscle tissue, the better the circulation to all organs and tissues becomes (as blood flows more efficiently through muscle than through fatty tissue), the better cells respond to insulin (the less insulin resistance, especially in Type 2 diabetics), the less chance there will be of meeting many of the symptoms and/or characteristics of Metabolic Syndrome X, the better one will look and feel about themselves, and the greater are the odds that one will live a longer/healthier life!!!!
All of the benefits listed above also lower the risk of cancer because the immune system will be strengthened and won’t be “bogged-down” trying to overcome all of these avoidable problems…
Let us look at the breast cancer issue for instance. Because about 85-87% of breast cancers are estrogen-driven (estrogen +/ER+), and we know that the more [excess] fat that a woman, (or a man), stores in their body, because fat holds on to both cancer-causing estrogens and xenoestrogen compounds, the greater are the chances that obese woman (or men) will hold on to these “cancer-causing” compounds as well.
Just having this excess of estrogens and xenoestrogens which are stored and tied up in fat stores is dangerous. But then, think about these tissue not only holding on to these toxic compounds and metabolites, but what about when they are released into the circulation and hook on to the estrogen receptors of breast, cervical, and uterine cells…and what if the person has a genetic predisposition for breast, uterine, cervical, or prostate cancer that runs in their family? These are all health issues that we must seriously consider and find answers to!!!!
References1. Zhuang, C., et al. “Biological Responses from Grifola frondosa (Dick.: Fr) S. F. Gray-Maitake (Aphyllophoromycetideae).” International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, Vol. 1, pp. 317-324 (1999). 2. Lieberman, S. and Babel, K., Maitake:King of Mushrooms. Keats Publishing, New Canaan, Connecticut, 1997, p. 18. 3. Babel, K. “The cancer-fighting qualities of mushrooms.” Nutrition Science News, 2, 141, 1997. 4. Rossello, R.A. and Kohn, D.H. “Cell communication and tissue engineering.” Commun. Integr. Biol., 3, 53, 2010. 5. Ponten, J. “Cell biology of precancer.” Eur. J. Cancer, 37, 597, 2001. 6. Tubiana, M. “Prevention of cancer and the dose-effect relationship: the carcinogenic effects of ionizing radiations.” Cancer Radiother., 13, 238, 2009. 7. Trosko, J.E. and Chang, C.C. “Mechanism of up-regulated gap junctional intercellular communication during chemoprevention and chemotherapy of cancer.” Mutat. Res., 1, 219, 2001. 8. Matsue, H., et al. “Gap junction- mediated intercellular communication between dendritic cells (DCs) is required for effective activation of DCs.” J. Immunol., 176, 181, 2006. 9. Wong, C.W., et al. “Connexins in leukocytes: shuttling messages?” Cardiovasc. Res., 62, 357, 2004.
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