Immune modulation positively influenced by wheatgrass

The immunologically active oligosaccharides isolated from wheatgrass modulate monocytes via Toll-like Receptor-2 signaling

Tsai, C-C., et al, J Biol Chem, 288(24), 17689-17697, 2013.

Background: Oligosaccharides are long strings of sugars and are also known as complex carbohydrates.  As a group, oligosaccharides are known to be potent modulators of the immune response to a wide range of environmental and dietary agents.  The “Toll-like Receptors” (TLRs) are a type of membrane signaling protein that plays a key role in the innate immune system (the innate immune system is the 1st line of defense in the human immune response). These TLRs have been conserved by evolution and it is believed that they are absolutely critical to defense against various pathogens as well as potentially, against cancer cells.

Results: The researchers isolated an oligosaccharide from wheatgrass that directly activated immune cells.  These researchers were able to analyze the oligosaccharide and identify it as maltoheptaose. Further studies indicated that the maltoheptaose attached itself to the immune cell via a TLR and thereby activated that immune cell. That signal resulted in the activation of other immune cells such as Natural Killer (NK) cells and regulatory T-lymphocytes.  The T-lymphocytes were then stimulated to produce a number of different signaling molecules, the cytokines.

Conclusions: This was the first report showing that a specific substance found in wheatgrass, maltoheptaose, is responsible for activating a vital arm of the immune system—the innate arm. The innate immune system is vitally important in protecting humans from bacteria, fungi, viruses and is believed to be very important in protecting against cancer.  The researchers also cited the possibility of using derivatives of maltoheptaose to design agents that could support the immune system.