Plants against cancer: the immune-boosting herbal microbiome: not of the plant, but in the plant. Basic concepts, introduction, and future resource for vaccine adjuvant discovery

Front Oncol. 2023 Jul 31;13:1180084. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2023.1180084. eCollection 2023.


The presence of microorganism communities (MOCs) comprised of bacteria, fungi, archaea, algae, protozoa, viruses, and the like, are ubiquitous in all living tissue, including plant and animal. MOCs play a significant role in establishing innate and acquired immunity, thereby influencing susceptibility and resistance to disease. This understanding has fostered substantial advancements in several fields such as agriculture, food science/safety, and the development of vaccines/adjuvants, which rely on administering inactivated-attenuated MOC pathogens. Historical evidence dating back to the 1800s, including reports by Drs Busch, Coley, and Fehleisen, suggested that acute febrile infection in response to “specific microbes” could trigger spontaneous tumor remission in humans. This discovery led to the purposeful administration of the same attenuated strains, known as “Coley’s toxin,” marking the onset of the first microbial (pathogen) associated molecular pattern (MAMPs or PAMPs)-based tumor immunotherapy, used clinically for over four decades. Today, these same MAMPS are consumed orally by billions of consumers around the globe, through “specific” mediums (immune boosting “herbal supplements”) as carriers of highly concentrated MOCs accrued in roots, barks, hulls, sea algae, and seeds. The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) mandates microbial reduction in botanical product processing but does not necessitate the removal of dead MAMP laden microbial debris, which we ingest. Moreover, while existing research has focused on the immune-modulating role of plant phytochemicals, the actual immune-boosting properties might instead reside solely in the plant’s MOC MAMP laden biomass. This assertion is logical, considering that antigenic immune-provoking epitopes, not phytochemicals, are known to stimulate immune response. This review explores a neglected area of research regarding the immune-boosting effects of the herbal microbiome – a presence which is indirectly corroborated by various peripheral fields of study and poses a fundamental question: Given that food safety focuses on the elimination of harmful pathogens and crop science acknowledges the existence of plant microbiomes, what precisely are the immune effects of ingesting MAMPs of diverse structural composition and concentration, and where are these distributed in our botanicals? We will discuss the topic of concentrated edible MAMPs as acid and thermally stable motifs found in specific herbs and how these would activate cognate pattern recognition receptors (PPRs) in the upper gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT), including Peyer’s patches and the lamina propria, to boost antibody titers, CD8+ and CD4+ T cells, NK activity, hematopoiesis, and facilitating M2 to M1 macrophage phenotype transition in a similar manner as vaccines. This new knowledge could pave the way for developing bioreactor-grown/heat-inactivated MOC therapies to boost human immunity against infections and improve tumor surveillance.

PMID:37588095 | PMC:PMC10426289 | DOI:10.3389/fonc.2023.1180084


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