A few weeks ago I read an article on Sciencedaily.com (great site), and it discussed how a large study showed that a supplement that is available over the counter – N-Acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) – was able to suppress the damaging autoimmune response seen in multiple sclerosis. In another study, children with treatment-resistant autoimmune inflammatory bowel disease began supplementing with it and two-thirds of them improved significantly over the course of 2 years. N-Acetylglucosamine differs slightly from the popular supplement, glucosamine.
N-acetylglucosamine is a naturally occurring enzyme in the body. It is used in many the function of numerous bodily systems, most notably in the neurological system and the immune system. N-acetylglucosamine is one of the 8 essential sugars needed by the body for proper cell communication. It is often found in glyconutrient supplements. There are many health benefits to taking a supplement of n-acetylglucosamine or GlaNAc. 1
For those supplementing with Chitosan (see my article on this), in chitin, glucosamine is present in the form of N-acetylglucosamine, but in chitosan usually as N-glucosamine…so it seems some chitosan supplements may or may not contain the molecule that contains this acetyl group. Supplementing with chitosan definitely helped me feel a bit better.
I was thinking this supplement could help those with Lyme disease as many times the symptoms are a result of the infection and/or co-infections setting off autoimmunity in the body (my LLMD felt that this Lym-einduced autoimmune reaction would in most cases resolve once the infection(s) was eradicated as this was his experience in treating patients.)
Here’s some more from the article:
“This sugar-based supplement corrects a genetic defect that induces cells to attack the body in MS,” said Demetriou, associate professor of neurology and microbiology & molecular genetics, “making metabolic therapy a rational approach that differs significantly from currently available treatments.”
Virtually all proteins on the surface of cells, including immune cells such as T-cells, are modified by complex sugar molecules of variable sizes and composition. Recent studies have linked changes in these sugars to T-cell hyperactivity and autoimmune disease.
In mouse models of MS-like autoimmune disease, Demetriou and his team found that GlcNAc given orally to those with leg weakness suppressed T-cell hyperactivity and autoimmune response by increasing sugar modifications to the T-cell proteins, thereby reversing the progression to paralysis.
The study comes on the heels of others showing the potential of GlcNAc in humans. One reported that eight of 12 children with treatment-resistant autoimmune inflammatory bowel disease improved significantly after two years of GlcNAc therapy. No serious adverse side effects were noted.
“Together, these findings identify metabolic therapy using dietary supplements such as GlcNAc as a possible treatment for autoimmune diseases,” said Demetriou, associate director of UCI’s Multiple Sclerosis Research Center. “Excitement about this strategy stems from the novel mechanism for affecting T-cell function and autoimmunity — the targeting of a molecular defect promoting disease — and its availability and simplicity.”
He cautioned that more human studies are required to assess the full potential of the approach. GlcNAc supplements are available over the counter and differ from commercially popular glucosamine. People who purchase GlcNAc should consult with their doctors before use.
Read the entire study here