There have been a number of reports relating to the functions of Spirulina in rodents. Zhang et al.16 reported that the hot water extract of Spirulina showed significant hydroxy radical scavenging activity in mice. In another study, the methanolic extract of Spirulina showed weak antioxidant activity in rats.17 Several papers suggested that the relevant substance is phycocyanin in Spirulina.17,18 Using an experimental squamous cell cancer model of hamsters, administration of Spirulina extract has been reported to result in total tumor regression in 30% of animals.19 Intraperitoneal injection of a polysaccharide extract of Spirulina was shown to inhibit proliferation of ascitic hepatoma cells in mice.20 Calcium Spirulan, a polysaccharide isolated from S. platensis, inhibited lung metastasis of mouse B16 melanoma cells by intravenous administration.21 Hence, phycocyanin and water-soluble components, presumably polysaccharides, may be responsible for antioxidant and anticancer effects in rodents.
In humans, rough Spirulina was reported to alleviate oral leukoplakia in pan tobacco chewers.22 Water-soluble Spirulina components also inhibited the replication of human viruses, herpes simplex, cytomegalo, measles, mumps, and influenza A viruses.23 The water extract also inhibited HIV replication in human T cells, T cell lines, and Langerhans cells.24 Again, water-soluble polysaccharides appear to participate in the antioxidant, anticancer, and antiviral effects of Spirulina. These reports, together with our finding of modulation of pattern receptor signaling by the water extract in concert with immune modulation,25 imply that the target of Spirulina-mediated immune activation is the innate immune system.
Nevertheless, it remains to be tested what kinds of cell wall components are readily extractable in the hot water-soluble fraction.9 Only such extractable components can serve as receptor ligands. Absorption efficacy of the relevant components in the hot water extract of Spirulina has not been determined.
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