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Spirulina and immunity

New insights into immunomodulatory effects of Spirulina in vitro, and on     local and systemic response to high-intensity exercise in horses

Wendy Pearson | Associate Professor

Inflammation and its associated oxidative stress have complex, dualistic adaptive and maladaptive effects on exercise performance, exercise recovery, and acclimation to repeated exercise bouts (ie. ‘training effect’).

When these dualistic roles are in balance, exercise-induced inflammation imparts a net benefit to the training effect; however, when it exceeds adaptive capacity of tissue, degenerative inflammatory conditions such as arthritis can result. Dietary ingredients with the potential to dampen inflammation may reduce the incidence of exercise-induced tissue damage and degenerative disease but may also interfere with exercise recovery and training effect. Spirulina (Arthrospira sp.) is a nutrient-dense feed supplement with the potential to support robust health and optimize exercise performance in horses. Beyond just classical nutrition, Spirulina has marked antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory activities in various inflammatory conditions, including the inflammatory condition of exercise. These effects have not been shown in horses, and equine-specific downstream effects of Spirulina on local (cartilage) and systemic adaptation to exercise stress is not known.

The purpose of the proposed study is to: 1) quantify direct, dose-dependent in vitro effects of Spirulina on cartilage explants responses to hypoxic and impact strain with respect to biomarkers of inflammation (IL-1β, IL-6, TNFα, PGE2,), inflammation resolution (RvD1), cartilage turnover (GAG, CS846), and oxidative stress (total antioxidant status, catalase, SOD activity) 2) determine whether the observed in vitro effects are also observed in spirulina-supplemented horses during exercise recovery.

This study will result in new information pertaining to the direct effect of Spirulina on cartilage and muscle health, and to its application in optimizing systemic and local adaptation to high-intensity exercise in horses.