Topic: BioHacking Immunity

BioHacking Immunity

The word “immunity”originates from the Latin word immunis meaning exempt. Generally speaking immunity consists of all of the body’s defense systems that resist infections and toxins. The immune system therefore has a crucial role in fending off intruders. The immune system can be thought of as a military defense system resisting uninvited guests. To put it dramatically, the troops patrolling the body mercilessly attack intruders, blasting bacteria, poisoning parasites, devouring viruses and forcing cancer cells to commit suicide. However, some- times the soldiers get hit by friendly fire. Autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and psoriasis involve a state of imbalance where the immune system erroneously attacks the body’s own protein, sugar or cell structures. Food and pollen allergies on the other hand are examples exaggerated reactions. Although functioning as a cohesive system, immunity is made up of various parts. A rough distinction can be made between innate (nonspecific) and adaptive (specific) immunity. As its name implies, innate immunity is what a person is born with. It is also affected by the vaccinations received as well as the foreign matter and microbes the person is exposed to during their lifetime. Innate immunity functions quickly, effectively and consistently. The activation of the adaptive immunity, on the other hand, is delayed by a few days in the event of detecting a foreign pathogen.

Adaptive Immunity: Adaptive immunity can be divided into cell-mediated immunity and humoral (fluid-based) immunity. The adaptive immune response is kicked off by so-called helper T cells. In the immune reaction antigen-presenting cells (APC cells, part of innate immunity) mark and eat the pathogen. APC cells then move to lymph nodes where help- er T cells launch the actual adaptive immunity response. When a new pathogen is being encountered for the first time, the reaction is slow and can take up to two weeks. When the pathogen is previously known, the defense reaction begins within a few days. Vaccines are used to introduce pathogens to the immune system in advance. If the pathogen has mutated, the immune system may no longer recognize it as the same disease. This is why it is possible to catch the flu again and again. Some pathogens such as human papillomaviruses (HPV) and herpesviruses also have the ability to hide from the immune system.

IN EXPERIMENTS CONDUCTED ON MICE, SCIENTISTS AT LONDON’S IMPERIAL COLLEGE ISOLATED AN LEM PROTEIN (LYMPHOCYTE EXPANSION MOLECULE) THAT MULTIPLIES THE PRODUCTION OF CANCER- AND VIRUS-DESTROYING KILLER T CELLS AND IMMUNITY- BOOSTING MEMORY CELLS. THE PROTEIN PRODUCES A MASSIVE VOLUME OF THESE CELLS, MAKING IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR CANCER CELLS TO FIGHT BACK. THIS FINDING MAY LEAD TO GENE THERAPY AS AN EFFECTIVE TREATMENT OF CANCER AND VIRAL INFECTIONS.

Cell Mediated Immunity: Cell-mediated immunity is a part of adaptive immunity that is based on lymphocytic function. It focuses primarily on fighting the pathogens multiplying within the body’s own cells. These include viruses, mycobacteria and protozoa. Unlike humoral immunity, cell-mediated immunity does not involve antibodies.

Humoral Immunity:  Like cell-mediated immunity, humoral immunity is a part of adaptive immunity. It is responsible for fending off patho- gens that occur outside cells. These include various bacteria and toxins secreted by this bacteria. The defense mechanisms of humoral immunity are the re- sponsibility of the antibodies circulating in the blood and on the surface of mucous membranes, as well as cytokine and complement systems. 

Factors Affecting Immunity:

Hereditary immunity deficiencies or disorders are relatively rare. Impaired immunity is usually caused by environmental factors and general health factors. General immunity-impairing factors include chronic sleep deprivation, lack of physical exercise, poor diet, chronic stress, social isolation and negative thoughts.8 Despite conventional wisdom, changes in ambient temperature do not appear to have a significant immunity-impairing effect.In fact, changes in temperature may even boost the function of the immune system. Isolated studies have found a link between a low nasal cavity temperature and the accelerated multiplication rate of the rhinovirus. Medicine-related immunity-impairing factors include antibiotics, cancer and arthritis medication and cortisone treatments. Unnecessary antibiotics interfere with natural bacterial flora and may therefore increase the risk of infection.  Similarly, the extended use of long-acting cortisone treatments for various inflammatory conditions and diseases such as asthma and arthritis may impair the immunity response and increase the risk of bacterial and fungal infections.

SCIENTISTS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA RECENTLY FOUND A PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN CONNEC- TION BETWEEN THE BRAIN AND THE IMMUNE SYSTEM.12 THE SCI- ENTISTS DISCOVERED THAT THE BRAIN CONTAINS A LYMPHATIC SYSTEM (OR GLYMPHATIC SYSTEM DUE TO ITS DEPENDENCE OF GLIAL CELLS) WHICH IS LINKED TO THE GENERAL IMMUNE SYSTEM. IT WAS PREVIOUSLY BELIEVED THAT THE BRAIN LACKED LYMPHATIC VESSELS COMPLETELY. THIS FINDING WILL HAVE AN ENORMOUS IMPACT ON THE TREATMENT OF VARIOUS IN- FLAMMATORY AND DEGENERATIVE NEUROLOGICAL DISEASES THAT DAMAGE THE CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM.

Exercise is a double-edged sword. On one hand, exercise strengthens immunity – on the other hand, overtraining may also impair it. Symptoms of over- training include impaired performance, chronic fatigue, frequent illness, impaired sleep quality and mood swings. Overtraining may lead to a state of imbalance in which humoral immunity becomes excessively active at the expense of cell-mediated immunity. Typical symptoms of overtraining individuals include a drop of 5–10 units in the maximum heart rate, the decreased level of noradrenaline in the urine and a decrease in the lactic acid, glutamine, natural killer cell, white blood cell and immunoglobulin levels in the blood.

Immune System Boosting Berries

  • Pomegranate, bilberry and cranberry juice (polyphenols have an anti-TNF effect)
  • Cherries (reduce CRP and IL6)
  • Elderberries (may reduce the duration of the common cold: antiviral effects, increased cytokine TNF-α)
  • Acai (rich in anthocyanins – similar to elderberries and bilberries)

Immune System Boosting Plants

  • Green tea (catechins such as EGCG have an anti- TNF effect; decreases the occurrence of NF-kappaB protein)
  • Cacao (reduces CRP)
  • Garlic (decreases the occurrence of NF-kappaB protein)
  • Ginseng and notoginseng (decreases the occurrence of NF-kappaB protein)
  • Substances affecting the cannabinoid receptors, such as Echinacea have an anti-TNF effect.39Echinacea may lower the risk of upper respiratory tract infection40 and may improve the impaired immunity of mucous membranes, caused by hard exercise. Echinacea may also decrease both the risk and duration of the common cold.
  • Astragalus or milkvetch (anti-TNF effect; decreases the occurrence of NF-kappaB protein)
  • Turmeric (anti-TNF effect; activates PPAR gamma receptors33 and decreases the occurrence of NF-kappaB protein)
  • Ginger (decreases oxidative stress; inhibits prostaglandin synthesis and lowers the levels of several inflammatory cytokines such as IL1, TNF-α and IL8 in the blood)  

Immune System Boosting fats 

  • Extra virgin olive oil (reduces CRP and IL6)
  • Omega-3 fats (EPA, DHA and ALA reduce CRP)
  • Extra virgin coconut oil (polyphenols reduce TNF-α, IL6 and CRP)

Immune system Boosting Supplements 

  • Vitamin D 
  • Vitamin B1 (reduces NF-kappaB)
  • Magnesium (reduces hs-CRP)
  • Zinc may decrease the risk and duration of the common cold when a minimum daily dose of 75 mg is taken, particularly in the form of an acetate. Adequate zinc intake also reduces IL6 and cytokine TNF-α. Sesame seeds are rich in zinc.
  • Creatine (inhibits the increase of CRP and TNF-α)
  • L-lysine (may reduce the susceptibility to activated HSV infection). The balance between lysine and arginine appears to be linked to herpes becoming active. Many individuals notice a cold sore forming frequently after eating chocolate or nuts (a plentiful source of arginine).
  • Probiotics may reduce the risk of illness
  • Alpha lipoic acid, glutathione and N-acetylcysteine (may improve the function of impaired immune system by boosting the enzyme function of the liver)
  • Vitamin C (reduces CRP C-reactive protein). Vitamin C appears to reduce the duration of the common cold when used shortly after the onset of symptoms. The benefits may be the most significant for those who conduct heavy exercise or live in cold climates.
  • Vitamin E supports the function of T cells. For example 100 grams of almonds fulfill the daily vitamin E requirement.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D has a crucial role in balancing the immune system. Vitamin D acts as a kind of a power supply for T cells. When an immune reaction takes place, a phagocytic cell traps the pathogen and presents it to a T cell which pro- duces a VDR receptor. The receptor binds vitamin D from the blood, waking up the T cell. As a result, helper T cells give away the intruder and killer T cells attempt to eliminate the uninvited guest. Without vitamin D the T cells will never wake up to finish the job. Vitamin D also regulates the genes that determine whether a T lymphocyte becomes a killer, helper or memory cell in the immune system. Vitamin D deficiency is a predisposing factor for autoimmune diseases such as MS, diabetes, psoriasis, intestinal inflammation and arthritis. Additionally, those suffering from vitamin D deficiency more often contract influenza and the common cold.

Medicinal Fungi: Fungi have been found to contain several substances that are likely to become more and more relevant in the treat- ment of illnesses and the development of new medicines. Many known fungi compounds kill bacteria and viruses. They also possess immunoregulatory properties. Usually fungi have had to compete with various microbes and other pathogens in exceptionally challenging circumstances. This is why they specialize in producing antibiotics and various antiviral compounds. Numerous important medicines such as penicillin, griseofulvin, erythromycin and cyclosporin were isolated from medicinal fungi. The medicinal properties of fungi are usually polysaccharides or triterpenes. In addition to these, glycoproteins, sterols and secondary metabolites are utilized for medicinal purposes. Practically all medicinal fungi are rich in complex sugar compounds such as beta-glucans which activate NK, T and B cells and macrophages. They also increase the levels of cytokines (interleukin 1 and 2), thus boosting the function of the immune system. The structure of beta-glucans makes it possible for them to attach to the receptors of macrophages and other white blood cells, forming free radicals that destroy bacteria, viruses and parasites. Beta-glucans increase the production of cytokines that act as neurotransmitters. Cytokines assist macrophages in destroying tumors and inhibiting their growth.

As a source of beta-glucans, fungi are better than cereals. Beta-glucans make up 7% of the total mass of button mushrooms and ceps, 11% of chanterelles, 14% of oyster mushrooms and as much as 17% of shiitake mushrooms. Fungal beta-glucans are partially similar to cereal beta-glucans except more effective and multifunctional. The most well-known and studied medicinal fungi by far are shiitake (Lentinula edodes), reishi or lingzi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum), turkey tail (Trametes versicolor), caterpillar fungus (Ophiocordyceps sinensis), hen-of-the-woods (Grifola frondosa), almond mushroom (Agaricus blazei), matsutake (Tricholoma matsutake), lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) and chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus). Turkey tail and the extracts thereof (PSK, PSP),70hen-of-the-woods and the extracts thereof (Maitake D-fraction) and shiitake and the extracts thereof (AHCC, LEM, KS-2, lentinan)73 appear to be beneficial in the supportive therapy for certain types of cancer, as well as balancing the immune system during treatment. The effects of medicinal fungi on the immune system may be more widely explained in the future by their effect on the intestinal microbiome.

Fasting: Fasting is an immemorial practice that throughout time has been suggested as a miracle cure for various ailments. More recently indicative evidence has been found of fasting in assisting the regeneration of parts of the immune system. Prolonged fasting depletes the body’s glucose stores after which the body starts to produce ketone bodies from fat as an alternative fuel and repair damaged cells. In studies conducted on mice, regular fasting of 2–4 days per week for a period of 6 months decreased the function of the PKA enzyme (protein kinase A), making it possible for the immune system to rebuild damaged cells. Fasting has also been linked to longevity due to the decrease in PKA and IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1).