Effects of the Blue-Green Algae Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (L.) Ralphs on Human Natural Killer Cells

Manoukian R, Citton M, Huerta P, et al. Phytoceuticals: Examining the Health Benefits and Pharmaceutical Properties of Natural Antioxidants and Phytochemicals. Massachusetts: International Business Communications, Inc.; 1998.

Conclusion: Consumption of freeze-dried Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA) algae resulted in a significant decrease of percent of Natural Killer (NK) cells in circulation two hours after consumption.

Summary: Natural Killer cells are immune system cells. They are scavengers of cells infected with viruses and tumors and they kill them by programmed cell death. NK cells travels through the blood and will go to an infected area when signaled to do so. They are thought to carry out their functions in the spleen, lung and liver parenchyma, and uterine and gut mucosal linings. The usual way of measuring NK activity is by measuring levels in the blood or its ability to kill tumor cells in vitro (laboratory experiment). However since these cells are thought to carry out their functions within the tissues, these methods of measuring NK activity may not be accurate.

AFA has been shown to have protective effect in the AMES test, which is a test that measures the mutagenic potential of chemical compounds. The protective effect of AFA means that it prevented the mutation. It has also been shown that AFA does not have immunosuppressive effects, unlike other strains of blue-green algae. For this study, participants were given 1.5 grams of freeze-dried AFA and after their immune function parameters were measured.

The AFA had an almost immediate effect on blood lymphocytes. NK cells were reduced by 60% after AFA consumption. The mechanism behind this is not known but is most likely due to AFA inducing the migration of NK cells, by activating their adhesion mechanisms. AFA also could have stimulated nerves in lymphoid tissues (tissues associated with immune function) and secretion of neuropeptides, affecting the recruitment of immune cells from circulation. Although the exact mechanisms are not known, this study could conclude that there was an increase in immune surveillance by NK cells after AFA consumption, which could lead to fewer colds and less viral infections.

Doctors Note: Immune cells are essential to human survival. Without these cells we would not be able to fight of illnesses or diseases as well as we do now. Natural killer cells are just one type of immune cell, which can seek out and kill cells taken over by foreign invaders. Immune cells are located throughout our bodies and when signaled they then respond and move to the infected area.

Aphanizomenon flos-aquae can aid in the surveillance, making our immune system more effective. An immune system that can better monitor your body means a healthier life where the foreign invaders our body comes in contact with everyday can be fought off more quickly.

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