Biobran MGN-3 - An Overview

General non-technical overview of Biobran MGN-3 and its benefits

Biobran MGN-3 was first developed in Japan in 1992 by Hiroaki Maeda, Director of Research and Development of Daiwa Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd, in Tokyo. Maeda's area of interest is in finding natural phytonutrient solutions for both human health and agriculture, and in the late 1980s, he turned his attention to polysaccharides, which have been known to have been known to strengthen immune response, and developed the immune system supplement, AHCC®.

After moving to Daiwa Pharmaceutical, headed by Yasuo Ninomiya, Maeda developed a new complex of short chain polysaccharides (primarily arabinoxylan and other hemicelluloses glyconutrients) which he gave the generic name MGN-3 after the initials of its developers — M-Maeda, G-Ghoneum, N-Ninomiya and "3" because it was a third generation product. (Mamdooh Ghoneum, Professor of Immunology at Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles, did much of the immunological research with the product.) Daiwa subsequently marketed this MGN-3 complex under the brand name Biobran.

Q:  What is Biobran MGN-3 arabinoxylan compound?

It has been well documented, for many years, that certain large polysaccharide molecules — complex carbohydrates such as plant fibre — can stimulate the immune system. Fibre in general has also been linked in research to the lowering of cholesterol, improved sugar metabolism and the reduction of intestinal toxicity; rice bran has anti-viral properties whereas certain mushroom fibre has been shown to enhance immune response. Unfortunately, plant fibres are mostly indigestible, and so these immune enhancing benefits remain mostly unrealized as the fibre passes through and out the body. However, if these very long polysaccharide molecules (specifically from rice bran) are broken up into much smaller components, called hemicelluloses — of which the most powerful are the arabinoxylan compounds — these benefits were not only greatly magnified, but they could be directly affect the body's immune system because the fibre now had a small enough molecular weight to be absorbed undigested through the small intestine into the blood system.

The leading manufacturer of this type of hemicellulose food supplement is Daiwa Pharmaceutical in Japan, which has a unique and patented process in which rice bran is broken down (partially hydrolyzed) using Shitake mushroom enzymes (lentius edodes mycelia extract) to make a unique and natural blend of hemicelluloses, the principal ingredient of which is the arabinoxylan compound or b-1, 4 xylophyronase hemicellulose. (Although Shitake mushroom enzymes are used in the manufacture, there is no measurable mushroom content in the end product and so most of those with mushroom intolerances have no reaction to it.) The diagram below shows how the basic unit or segment of the fibre has been broken down or "pruned" to produce, in this case, the hemicellulose called arabinoxylan.

The resulting blend of hemicellulose compounds from this process was generically called Biobran MGN-3 — or just Biobran for short. (Much of the research refers to it as MGN-3 which is the generic manufacturers name, although another generic name used is Modified Rice Bran - MRB). It is also referred to as Biobran arabinoxylan compound because the arabinoxylan is one of its main components. As a blend of natural compounds (hemicelluloses), Biobran is categorized as a glyconutrient or glyconutritional food supplement, and this natural array of short chain polysaccharides makes it much easier for the body to assimilate than single component substances (such as conventional drugs). This natural array of ingredients is also thought to be a reason for its non-toxicity and lack of unwanted side effects.

Q:  What is its effect on the body?

Biobran MGN-3 arabinoxylan compound can stimulate a weak immune system (see right) more powerfully and safely than any other agent, natural or synthetic. In fact, Mamdooh Ghoneum, Professor of Immunology at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, has stated that Biobran is the most powerful immunomodulator he has ever tested. Although nobody yet knows the exact mechanism, it appears to be able to do this by increasing the body's production of natural cytokynes — substances such as interferons, interleukins and tumour necrosis factors, which not only help destroy rogue cells and viruses directly, but kick-start the immune system by increase the activity of the lymphocytesB cells, T cells and especially NK (natural killer) cells. B cells focus on producing antibodies whilst the T and NK cells wander through the body directly destroying virally or bacterially infected cells, and cells that have turned cancerous. (In its lifetime, a single NK cell can kill as many as 27 cancer cells, sticking to them and then injecting lethal chemical granules that can destroy the abnormal cell in less than 5 minutes.)

The Immune System

The immune system is the collective army of a trillion white blood cells, the bone marrow, antibodies, cytokines and the thymus gland that help to identify and destroy the millions of microbes (bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi) that penetrate our bodies every day, and the thousands of our own cells that have become genetically abnormal or cancerous. In fact, the immune system is considered every bit as complex as our nervous system, and is not only able to produce a matching antibody for every one of the millions of different infective agents, but is able to remember how to produce these decades later.

When the body is stressed or in a diseased state, the immune system can become overloaded and the activity of these protector cells becomes sluggish. This is often compounded by medical treatment - such as chemotherapy in the case of cancer - which further depresses the immune system. A weak immune system is less able to prevent cancer cells and infections from taking hold and spreading in the body.

It is extremely important to both disease prevention and disease treatment, therefore, to optimize the immune system, and especially NK cell activity, as these cells, which comprise 15% of the white blood cells, are considered the "elite troops" of the immune system, and any rise in their activity can increase the chance and speed of recovery. This is why research into immunomodulators often focus on this single parameter of NK cell activity: it is easy to measure in a laboratory with a 51Cr-release assay test and it gives a good indication or "snap shot" of overall immune system strength. Most of the research papers done on Biobran, therefore, involve extensive NK cell activity testing, and it has been shown that Biobran MGN-3 can stimulate sluggish NK cell activity by as much as 300% or more.

Biobran can also increase depressed T cell and B cell activity by 250% and 200% respectively, as well as other factors of the immune system such as TNF. And it can do this without any toxicity or other adverse side effects (unlike synthetic cytokines currently used by oncologists, such as interleukin-2, which can be extremely toxic).

Below is a graph showing the increase in activity of NK cells with just two weeks on Biobran supplementation. This activity can be scientifically measured by placing blood from a patient into a vial of live cancer cells, and then using a radioactive marker to measure, after a four hour period, the percentage of these cells destroyed by the bloods NK cells. Although intake was stopped after this two week period for this experiment, you can see from the graph that the NK activity is still well above the control level a few weeks later.

Research has also shown that, provided Biobran MGN-3 is regularly included in the diet, this stimulation of the immune system need not decrease over time. This lack of a tail-off (or hyporesponsiveness) with prolonged use is extremely unusual for immunomodulatory substances and means that Biobran is always effective, even with prolonged use. NK activity usually peaks around 1 or 2 months after being on a high dose, after which it can be maintained with a smaller maintenance does (see dosages below). The speed at which this peak is reached depends on the amount taken each day.

Biobran has also recently been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. Indeed, the head of the research department at Daiwa Pharmaceutical, Dr. Endo, first took Biobran himself for a painful rheumatoid arthritic condition in his hands, which subsequently cleared up. Apart from obvious inflammation (itis) problems in the body such as arthritis and allergies, inflammation is believed to increase the rate of cell mutation, and therefore reducing it could be helpful in minimising cancer risk.

This ability to enhance the immune system and reduce inflammation means that Biobran is an important food supplement for a variety of situations. (Please note that the majority of research has been conducted in relation to cancer, and that more research needs to be done on viral infections, bacterial infections and diabetes.)

  1. General health maintenance — Even in healthy people, Biobran MGN-3 helps to strengthen the immune system by increasing the activity of the white blood cells. This, in turn, increases immunity by enhancing the body's ability to destroy infections and abnormal cells before they have a chance to spread. For those that are unwell, Biobran can help speed up recovery by increasing immune function.
  2. Cancer — When used in conjuction with a good treatment program, Biobran can help the body increase its own survival chances by boosting white blood cell activity and promoting the rejection of abnormal cells. Also, it can improve the quality of life for those who are on chemotherapy and hormone therapy due to it ability to alleviate the side effects of the drugs used in these treatments. (Nausea and hair loss, for example, are often reduced.) Cancers of the blood, such as leukaemia and multiple myeloma show the greatest benefit, whilst good results have been seen in other cancers like lymphoma, ovarian, prostate and breast cancer (see clinical research for more detailed research results). It is important to note that Biobran itself is NOT a cancer treatment, but a useful adjuct or addition to a cancer treatment program supervised by a qualified practitioner. Proper treatments can dramatically reduce the load of cancer cells in the body (a process called debulking) whilst the Biobran MGN-3 can help the immune system manage the remainder. (Most of the research into the benefits of Biobran arabinoxylan on cancers have been carried out in conjunction with conventional cancer treatments.)
  3. Viral infections such as HIV, AIDS and hepatitis B & C — Biobran has the ability to improve immunological parameters in patients with these conditions (such as Interferon-Gamma production, GOT, GPT and Gamma GPT). In vitro research shows that it can inhibit the replication of the HIV virus without toxicity. Once again, Biobran is not a treatment in itself, but a useful adjuct to a treatment program supervised by a qualified practitioner. (Biobran has had very limited success with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, indicating that this condition is likely to be much more complex than a straightforward viral infection.)
  4. Bacterial infections such a colds, fevers and food poisoning — Biobran can help speed recovery alongside conventional treatments by strengthening the immune system. (Most of the evidence that Biobran can help with bacterial infections is anecdotal, although it is consistent with the activity of a stimulated immune system.)
  5. Diabetes — Biobran has the ability to improve glucose tolerance — although it is NOT a substitute for insulin or for glucose monitoring. This is definitely an area that needs further research.
  6. Inflammatory Conditions — Biobran reduces the inflammatory response in the body, helping to bring symptomatic relief for a variety of inflammatory conditions including arthritis. It does this by suppressing the infiltration of leukocytes, especially neutrophiles, into inflamed tissue. So far, there have been no human clinical trials on this ability of Biobran. Recent research has also indicated that there is a strong link between an excessive inflammation response in the body and abnormal cell growth.
  7. Allergies — Similar to the above, by reducing the inflammatory response, Biobran has the ability to reduce the symptoms of allergies. It does this by suppressing the degranulation of mast cells, the storehouses of histamine which causes the symptoms of allergy.

Q:  Is any of this backed up by clinical research?

Unlike with most natural supplements, there has been very encouraging clinical research (see clinical research), including many human trials, carried out on Biobran MGN-3 arabinoxylan, much of which have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals. This research has taken place at UCLA/DREW University in the United States, at some clinics and hospitals in Europe, and various universities and medical research institutions in Japan, including Chiba University, Kobe Women's College, Jichi Medical School, Nippon University, Kyushu University, Nagoya University, Kyoto University, Toyama Medical University and Kawasaki Medical University.

The main researcher on Biobran has been Dr. Mamdooh Ghoneum, a professor at the Department of Immunology at Drew University of Medicine and Science in the United States. Dr. Ghoneum, now an internationally recognized authority on cancer immune therapy, received his Ph.D. at the University of Tokyo in radioimmunology and did his postdoctoral work at UCLA in immunology. Over the last 20 years he has been researching various substances that can enhance the immune system, but says that "Biobran MGN-3 is the most powerful immune complex I have ever tested!" So impressed was he with the results that he has now devoted his entire research efforts to treatments with this compound.

Although the research on the immunological response to Biobran arabinoxylan compound has been very positive for a variety of diseases, ranging from cancer and diabetes to viral infections such as AIDS and hepatitis B & C, there is a clear need for larger clinical in vivo research, including double-blind trials, to determine exactly how increases in immune response (especially NK cell activity) translate into actual recovery and survival statistics for the various disease states mentioned.

Q:  Does Biobran have any toxicity or side effects?

No. Biobran arabinoxylan compound is a natural product that has no adverse or toxic side-effects, confirmed by blood tests and examinations of liver and kidney function of people who have taken high amounts of the compound over several months. The only obvious contraindication is that, as an immunomodulator, able to boost weak immune systems, it should not be taken in conjunction with any medication specifically for suppressing the immune system.

And, although mushroom enzymes are used in Biobran's manufacture, there is no mushroom content in the final product, which means that nearly all those with mushroom intolerances have been able to take it without an allergic reaction. This compound has also been authorized by the Japan Health Food and Nutrition Food Association, and has passed strict evaluation standards set under the guidance of the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

Q:  How much Biobran should I take and when?

As the body does not build up a resistance to Biobran over time, this food supplement can safely and effectively be taken over an extended period of time, and without the necessity of slowly increasing the dosage as with other immunomodulators.

Most research into Biobran has been conducted using 30 to 45mg/kg/day in a divided dose with meals, with maintenance doses down to 15mg/kg/day. A dosage of at least 500mg a day should be taken for general health maintenance (unless potentised with yeast); for more serious immune support (such as in the case of arthritis, diabetes, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and other infections) the recommended dosage should be 1000mg a day; and for serious conditions where the immune system is severely compromised (such as with cancer or AIDS) 3g per day is recommended for 1 month and then 1g per day thereafter.

Biobran should always be taken after food (ideally, 30 minutes after) and larger daily intakes should be divided into three portions and taken with breakfast, lunch and dinner. If the person taking the compound is very ill, they can stay on the 3g per day intake for an extended period.

Apart from the case of general health maintenance, we always recommend that your doctor be informed that you are taking this supplement, so that he or she can integrate it into your treatment program.

Biobran and MGN-3 are both registered trademarks of Daiwa Pharmaceutical, Tokyo, Japan