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International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms
Structural Diversity and Physiological Functions of β-Glucans
Tokyo University of Pharmacy and Life Sciences School of Pharmacy, Lab Immunopharmacological and Microbiological Production, 1432-1 Horinouchi, Hachioji Tokyo, 192-0392, Japan
This article provides an overview of the structures and biological activities of β-glucans (BGs), focusing primarily on results that we obtained. BGs demonstrate a diverse range of biological activities, and this diversity is so great that a "common activity" has not been identified to this day. Although which activity is truly significant should probably be determined from the viewpoint of the effective use of BGs, one of the characteristics of BGs being "broad spectrum," it is expected that future research will be conducted to clarify this matter. In addition, BGs are present in large amounts in the environment, and it was found that humans and animals not only react to BGs in the form of innate immunity, but also recognize BGs via acquired immunity. This suggests that it is necessary to expand and revise the conventional mechanism of action associated with BGs in order to develop a new mechanism of action. BGs consist of both "old" and "new" materials. When immunoregulation is considered, there is the question of whether recently discovered cytokines, gene therapy, or cancer vaccines may serve as substitutes for BGs. It is preferable that all of these be allowed to coexist.
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