Special Issue "Glucan: New Perspectives on Biochemistry and Application"
Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2017)
Natural products, useful in preventing or treating various diseases, have been sought after throughout the history of humankind. Usually, the mechanisms of the actions remain unknown and the interest of both the public and professionals slowly evaporates. Even β(1–3),(1–6)-d-glucan, arguably the most studied natural immunomodulator, did not escape significant problems. One main problem in characterizing natural products also occurred with b-glucan: These substances usually represent a complex mixture of ingredients, each of which might contribute to biological activity. The considerable heterogeneity of all natural b-glucans obviously continues to be the cause of a series of mutually contradicting conclusions. Therefore, the proper and scientifically well-founded evaluation of b-glucan properties had to focus not only on biochemical characteristics and biological activities of certain isolated preparation but, first of all, on adequate isolation techniques which, in the end, gave us the purified material consisting of a reproducible specimen of pure b-glucan molecules. As a result, the only meaningful data has come from experiments based on sufficiently purified and chemically standardized b-glucan.
In general, it is clear that during decades of research, numerous types of b-glucan from various natural sources have been isolated and described. Unfortunately, not all of these glucans were created equal and b-glucans widely differ not only in physicochemical properties, but also in biological properties. The original studies of effects b-glucan has on the immune system focused on mice. Subsequent studies demonstrated that b-glucan possesses a strong immunostimulating activity in a wide variety of other species, including shrimp, fish, tortoises, chicken, rats, rabbits, sheep, pigs, cattle, and, last but not least, humans. Based on these results, it has been concluded that b-glucan represents a type of immunostimulant that is active over the broadest spectrum of biological species and that it is one of the first immunostimulants actively spanning an evolutionary spectrum. b-Glucan is therefore not only a biologically active polysaccharide with strong immunomodulating effects, but is also considered to be an evolutionary and very old stimulant of a variety of defense immune reactions.
Despite long-term interest and research, the mechanism of how b-glucan affected our health remained in many ways a mystery. Only in the last decade, extensive research by numerous scientific groups has helped to reveal the extraordinary effects that b-glucan exerts on various physiological and pathophysiological processes in of our body. Based on more than 15,000 studies about b-glucan, we can conclude that b-glucan from fungi (particularly yeast), and seaweed are well-known biologic response modifiers that function as immunostimulants against infectious diseases and cancer. Unlike most other natural products, properly purified b-glucan retain their bioactivity in spite of rather drastic isolation procedures. This allows us to characterize how b-glucan works on a cellular and molecular level.
Dr. Vaclav Vetvicka
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