2015 APR

Fucoidan can transfer information.

fucoidan informational functionThe antitumor phenomenon of fucoidan is based on the well-known threefold effect: apoptosis inducing, immunomodulatory and antiangiogenic. One of the biggest discoveries in the field of microbiology in the last few years is the so-called "informational" function of sugar chains (polysaccharides). Fucose is the basic sugar-building block that is used for constructing the fucoidan sugar chains. Sugar chains are akin to the downy hair growing on the surface of the cells in our bodies. Eight types of sugar molecules (known as glyconutrients) form sugar chains inside our bodies:
  • glucose
  • galactose
  • mannose
  • fucose
  • xylose
  • N-acetylglucosamine
  • N-acetylgalactosamine
  • N-acetylneuramic acid
For example, three molecules of mannose and two of N-acetylglucosamine form a base, from which other sugar moleculas can branch out. These "downy hairs" growing on the surface of the body cells perform a function essential for sustaining life. This function, in short, is information exchange between the 60 trillion cells inside our body. If we think of our body cells as micro-computers, then sugar chains are the network that puts them online. For example, sugar chains can detect foreign bodies such as viruses or cancerous cells and transmit this information to macrophages and NK cells and thus help activate the immune system. Sugar chains are also important for balancing hormone secretion inside of our bodies. Moreover sugar chains are also attached to the nerve cells and are important for transferring the nervous information. All in all, sugar chains are essential for the efficient functioning of all 60 trillion cells inside our body as one living being. According to the latest research, sugar chains can be attached not only to the cells but also to proteins, in which case the functionality of proteins becomes hybrid. The research into sugar chains has become a field of international competition, since it became clear that sugar chain disorders can be related to multiple illnesses in our bodies. Better understanding of sugar chains will make it possible to develop new more efficient medicines for many diseases. Some believe that research into sugar chains will be the next largest field of scientific study after genetic research. Sugar chain research started about 50 years ago in Japan, and Japanese scientists are currently leading in this field. About 10 years ago the Health and Welfare Ministry of Japan (now the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry) invested several billion yen (several hundred million US dollars) into sugar chain research and currently many state research institutions in Japan are contributing their efforts to the cutting-edge research in this field. The world famous Koichi Tanaka, who became Nobel Prize winner in 2002 for his protein research, is now also engaged in the sugar chain analytical methods research. With further advances in sugar chain research, it is expected that the explanations of the anti-tumor effects of fucoidan will also become more detailed.