Enhancement of natural killer cell activity in healthy subjects by Immulina®, a Spirulina extract enriched for Braun-type lipoproteins

Planta Med. 2010 Nov;76(16):1802-8. doi: 10.1055/s-0030-1250043. Epub 2010 Jun 17.


Immulina®, a commercial extract of Arthrospira (Spirulina) platensis is a potent activator of THP-1 monocytes and CD4+ T cells IN VITRO and enhances several immunological functions in mice. We further characterized Immulina® by determining that Braun-type lipoproteins are responsible for a major portion of the IN VITRO monocyte activation exhibited by this material. In order to understand the effect of Immulina® on NK cell activity, a pilot study was conducted on ten healthy North American individuals who supplemented their diet with Immulina® (400 mg/day) for seven days. We observed a 40% average increase in the killing of K562 tumor cells by NK cells (p < 0.01) after Immulina® supplementation. In a separate placebo-controlled, crossover study involving 11 healthy Danish subjects, we observed increased mRNA expression of the NK cell marker NKG2D by 37% (p = 0.02) and by 55% (p = 0.0003) after administration of Immulina® (200 mg and 400 mg per day, respectively) for seven days. The mRNA expression of the NK- and T-cell marker perforin increased by 75% (p = 0.008) after administration of 400 mg Immulina® per day. Both markers displayed significant dose-dependent effects (p = 0.0003 and p = 0.02, respectively). The ratio between CD56 (bright) and CD56 (dim) NK cells was not affected by Immulina® administration. In summary, two independent studies showed enhancement of NK cell activity following administration of Immulina® for seven days.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / pharmacology*
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / therapeutic use
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / therapeutic use
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / drug effects*
  • Leukemia, Erythroblastic, Acute / drug therapy*
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / drug effects
  • Lipoproteins / pharmacology*
  • Lipoproteins / therapeutic use
  • Lymphocyte Activation / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • NK Cell Lectin-Like Receptor Subfamily K / genetics
  • NK Cell Lectin-Like Receptor Subfamily K / metabolism
  • Perforin / genetics
  • Perforin / metabolism
  • Phytotherapy
  • Pilot Projects
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Reference Values
  • Spirulina / chemistry*
  • T-Lymphocytes
  • Young Adult


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Biomarkers
  • Lipoproteins
  • NK Cell Lectin-Like Receptor Subfamily K
  • Plant Extracts
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Perforin