Microalgae have high concentrations of pigments such as carotenoids that have beneficial properties in human cells. An extract of Tetraselmis suecica tested in a new study contained a number of carotenoids and displayed antioxidative and reparative properties in a human lung cancer cell line.
Many human diseases, such as diabetes, chronic inflammation, and various cancers, are linked to reactive oxygen species (ROS) and their harmful effects on the human body. ROS are naturally occurring and are essential in cell signaling and homeostasis, but external factors such as ionizing radiation can increase ROS levels to a point where they can become damaging. ROS can interact with DNA, RNA and proteins to cause cellular damage, accumulating into oxidative stress.
The body naturally neutralizes the effects of ROS, but at high levels, supplementation is required to minimize oxidative damage. Antioxidants can interact with ROS and neutralize them, eliminating their negative effects. Many natural sources of antioxidants are available, such as microalgae, and are preferable to synthetic sources due to potential long-term toxicity issues. While their effects are clearly understood, specific targets and exact mechanisms of their protective abilities are unclear.
In a new study published in Scientific Reports, Sansone et al. examined the protective abilities of the microalgae Tetraselmis suecica. The extract has been patented for dermatological uses and hair growth, but this study investigated its effects at a molecular level. Human anaplastic cells (cells that have lost structural differentiation and are at high risk of malignancy) were isolated and exposed to hydrogen peroxide to induce oxidative stress. Afterward, they were treated with the T. suecica extract solution and reparative properties were tested. The solution was also used to treat an assay of isolated ROS.
Previous studies have shown T. suecica to be effective in treating psoriasis lesions and promoting hair growth and in this study, the extract was shown to also stimulate cell repair. The extract contained high levels of xanthophylls, which are known for their antioxidative properties. Adding the extract to an ROS assay resulted in 98% reduction of the species into a neutralized form, performing better than other common antioxidants. When added to human cells that had been subjected to oxidative stress, the cells displayed signs of cell repair including upregulation of repair markers and downregulation of damage markers. Scientists believe that these reparative effects may be the result of many antioxidative compounds working synergistically. More research needs to be done to clarify if this bioactivity is the product of a single compound or of multiple working in unison. Ultimately these properties could lead to natural cosmetic and nutritional products effective in reducing damaging ROS in humans.
Written By: Wesley Tin, BMSc