Deep insight of sea cucumber functions based on solid scientific research

A brief review of published research

Atlantic sea cucumbers, in particular, have a strong nutrient and bioactive profile including sulfated polysaccharides, proteins/peptides, essential fatty acids, minerals and vitamins. Therefore, this flexible, elongated, orange-footed marine animal has gained more and more interest from scientific researchers in recent decades. To date, multiple scientific reports have found bioactive ingredients in sea cucumbers and their physiological and pharmacological activities due to their rich sources, low toxicity, high efficiency, and few side effects.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that are made during normal cell metabolism (chemical changes that take place in a cell). They can build up in cells and cause damage to other molecules. This damage may increase the risk of cancer and other diseases. Sea cucumber, whole or extracts, can protect/against cell damage that caused by free radicals, which is happened by donating a hydrogen atom, so that the free radical becomes paired off.

Sea cucumber has emerged as a potential source of anti-angiogenic and anti-tumor agents of medical interest. Tumor growth depends on the formation of new blood vessels, while sea cucumber extract can inhibit angiogenesis, which in turn suppresses cell survival, proliferation, adhesion and migration. Recent studies reveal the anticarcinogenic potential of sea cucumber-derived bioactives in use against certain cancers. For example, the in vitro study shows sea cucumber ingredients could inhibit the growth of human cervical cancer Hela cells and human liver carcinoma HepG2 cells by 80.28% and 83.11%, respectively. In vivo study suggests sea cucumber extract could promote the activities of endogenous anti-oxidation enzymes and increase the content of anti-oxidation substance in lung tumor bearing mice, which attribute to the significant effect of anti-tumor activity of sea cucumber. Another study shows sea cucumber acid mucopolysaccharides effectively inhibit the growth of hepatocellular carcinoma through protecting the immune organs, and stimulating the proliferation of tissues from the immune organs, and enhancing cell-mediated immunity in a hepatocellular carcinoma rat model.

The investigation of immune regulation ability of sea cucumber reveals that sea cucumber constitutes could enhance the cellular immunity and humoral immunity of normal mice and immunocompromised mice, thus leading sea cucumber as an immunostimulant. Scientific research explores that the significant effect on immune regulation of sea cucumber correlated to its high contents of mucopolysaccharides, saponins and active amino acids.

Sea cucumbers are considered a potential source of novel natural antibiotics. In several studies, sea cucumbers extracts have been confirmed as important antibacterial agents. The novel antimicrobial peptides from sea cucumber have a board range of antimicrobial activity against both Gram negative and Gram positive bacteria. Sea cucumber saponins have exhibited significant antifungal activity of 88.5% inhibition rate. Sea cucumbers extracts, e.g. polysaccharides and saponins, also have antiviral and antiparasitic activities. A recent study exhibited remarkable antiviral activity of sea cucumber ingredients not only against virus adsorption to the cells but also on virus intracellular replication. A research suggests sea cucumber polysaccharides might be developed further as a novel human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1) entry inhibitor for treatment of HIV/AIDS patients.

There is increasing evidence that sea cucumber-derived bioactive compounds also establish to have remarkable functions with anti-coagulant, anti-fatigue, anti-hypertension, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-thrombotic, wound healing, nerve protection, and other properties.

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