The team from the Department of Surgery at Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University has discovered that a beta glucan supplement can enhance the ability of certain human immune cells to navigate to the site of a bacterial infection.
They report in the August issue of Surgery (136(2), pp 384-9) that soluble beta glucan, supplied by the US firm Biopolymer Engineering, binds to receptors (CR3) on neutrophils, the most abundant type of innate immune cell in the body. This both increases the killing capacity of the neutrophils and benefits migration or chemotaxis to the site of an infection or challenge.
Neutrophils are attracted to the site of an infection by blood proteinscalled chemoattractants and are among the first cells of the body to respond to a challenge due to infection or injury.
Priming the neutrophils with beta glucan increases their ability to sense complement fragments emanating from the site of an infection, according to study leader Jonathan Reichner. As a result, betaglucan helps neutrophils locate the bacterial mother lode within a infected tissue. This more rapid response to infection results in faster microbial clearance and healing.
Interest in products that can boost the immune system appears to be growing, with last year's SARS epidemic pushing many into the limelight. Dairy ingredients such as colostrum have been popular in Asia since the disease outbreak and others like probiotics have strong growth worldwide.
Indeed consumer research shows that many people are buying functional foods merely because they are concerned about future health risks rather than specific current medical needs.
BioPolymer's WGP Beta Glucan is a patented carbohydrate derived from the cell walls of baker's yeast. It is marketed in Europe by DKSH.
The US firm presented another recent study on the ingredient, published in the July issue of The Journal of Immunology (15;173(2):1284-91), at last week's Supply Side West show in Las Vegas.