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Blocking Galectin-3 in Arthritis and Joint Pain


Don't miss Dr. Issac Eliaz, MD, LAc, MS, lead a Vendor Workshop, Friday, July 12, from 11:15am to 12:00pm, in Keystone, Colorado. Visit www.naturopathic.org/conference.asp to register.
The pain of arthritis is well known by a large portion of the population -- about 50 million people in the U.S. currently experience some form of this condition, and face challenges with long-term relief. However, research now demonstrates that addressing elevated levels of circulating galectin-3 can serve as a therapeutic target in patients with chronic joint pain and rheumatoid arthritis.

Galectin-3 is a member of the lectin family, of which at least fourteen (14) mammalian galectins have been identified. It can be expressed in the nucleus, cytoplasm, mitochondrion, cell surface, and extracellular space. Galectin-3 can also circulate freely in the blood stream where it now serves a role as an active biomarker for numerous galectin-3 related conditions.  At normal levels, galectin-3 is perfectly healthy and plays important roles in cellular communication, development and immune response. At elevated levels however, galectin-3 has been recognized in decades of published research for its ability to actively promote the growth and spread of metastatic cancer by allowing cancer cells to aggregate, proliferate, trigger angiogenesis and metastasize, and evade the immune system.

Furthermore, research over the last few years has expanded our understanding of this “rogue molecule” and the active role it plays in numerous chronic diseases beyond cancer alone. A fast-growing body of published data now demonstrates that elevated levels of galectin-3 in the body spur the development and progression of numerous degenerative diseases related to chronic inflammation, fibrosis, malignant cellular growth and eventually, organ failure. We now know that elevated serum levels of galectin-3 are directly responsible for the inflammation, swelling, stiffness and joint destruction characteristic of arthritis. Published research has likewise demonstrated that the dietary supplement, modified citrus pectin (MCP), has the unique ability to bind to and inhibit galectin-3.

Our Evolving Understanding of Galectin-3
As an integrative physician and researcher, I have been recommending MCP in my practice to address cancer and heavy metal body burden for over 15 years. Since the 1990s, published research has demonstrated MCP’s effectiveness in preventing cancer growth and metastasis, through its ability to block excess galectin-3 molecules. Clinical research has also established MCP’s ability to reduce heavy metal body burden, safely without reducing levels of essential minerals.

These actions make MCP an important component within a multi-pronged anti-cancer and chronic disease treatment protocol. But early on in my practice, it was remarkable how quickly this single ingredient could also offer significant relief from the pain of arthritis and joint problems. After starting on MCP for just a few weeks or less, many of my patients would often report a noticeable reduction in joint pain and stiffness.

Before the profusion of published research on galectin-3’s role in other conditions beyond cancer and heavy metal toxicity, my colleagues and I had guessed that MCP’s pain relieving effects were due to its chelating actions. This is certainly part of the big picture, since heavy metals can accumulate in joints and surrounding tissues, causing inflammation and pain.

However, as the body of galectin-3 research grew and scientists discovered its role in inflammation and the process of chronic inflammation to fibrosis within joints, organs and tissues, MCP’s primary mechanisms against arthritis became clear.

Modified Citrus Pectin — Proven Galectin-3 Inhibitor
Through the expanding field of galectin-3 research, MCP continues to rise in clinical significance and visibility as a proven natural galectin-3 inhibitor. It is produced from regular citrus pectin using an enzymatic modification process, reducing the molecular weight of the pectin to fall between 5-13 kiloDaltons (normal pectin is between 50-300 KD). This modification allows MCP to absorb into the circulation, and ensures greater bioactivity throughout the body. Because of its carefully controlled molecular weight and structure, MCP is able to bind and block galectin-3 molecules, chelate heavy metals without affecting essential minerals, and provide additional immune enhancing properties through its rhamnogalacturonan II polysaccharide side-chains and specific unsaturated regions of the pectin fibers.

Starting with the first published study in 1992, MCP has been extensively researched and substantiated as a safe and natural anti-cancer and anti-metastatic therapy, heavy metal chelator, immune modulator and powerful galectin-3 inhibitor.

Research on Galectin-3 and Arthritis
High levels of galectin-3 molecules have been found in the lining of joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis. Excess galectin-3 molecules stimulate the production of inflammatory compounds which promote the joint destruction characteristic of this debilitating condition. When taken as a supplement, MCP’s specific structure can attach to the galectin-3 molecules and inactivate them, thus breaking the cycle of inflammation, pain and joint damage.

As mentioned, MCP can also help alleviate another of the possible causes of arthritis, through its ability to chelate heavy metals and toxins from the circulation. We are regularly exposed to aluminum, lead, mercury, arsenic and other toxic heavy metals from numerous sources. Even small amounts can build up in various body tissues, with a particular affinity for joint tissue where they cause chronic inflammation and joint pain.  By removing these toxins from the system (without disrupting the balance of essential minerals), MCP can help control a secondary cause of chronic inflammation.

Simple Galectin-3 Blood Test Evaluates Risk
As the extensive body of published research continues to validate the role of galectin-3 in cancer and inflammatory-fibrosis related conditions, this rogue molecule may serve as the foundation for a new class of chronic illness: High Galectin-3 Diseases.  In 2011 the FDA approved a simple galectin-3 serum assay to determine cardiovascular disease risks and prognosis. This test is covered by most insurance, and experts estimate that it will soon be approved in the diagnostic and prognostic evaluation of numerous other conditions including diabetes mellitus, hepatitis, cirrhosis, kidney disease, arthritis and more. In my lecture on July 12th at the AANP Annual Conference, I will discuss in detail the body of research on elevated galectin-3 and how to use galectin-3 testing in the diagnosis, prognosis and evaluation of numerous related health issues.

Selected References
Filer A, Bik M, Parsonage GN et al. Galectin 3 induces a distinctive pattern of cytokine and chemokine production in rheumatoid synovial fibroblasts via selective signaling pathways. Arthritis Rheum. 2009;60(6):1604-1614.
Forsman H, Islander U, Andreasson E et al. Galectin-3 aggravates joint inflammation and destruction in antigen-induced arthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2011;63(2):445-454.
Henderson NC and Sethi T. The regulation of inflammation by galectin-3. Immunol Rev. 2009;230(1):160-171.

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