Lactoferrin is a glycoprotein of the innate immune system and its receptors are found in many tissues of the body. Lactoferrin and its derivatives have the following properties:
1. Broad spectrum anti-microbial activity.
2. Anti-tumor activity with apoptosis in cancer cells.
3. Regulation of cell growth and differentiation.
4. Modulation of inflammatory, humoral and cellular immune responses. Lactoferrin can control unregulated inflammation and stimulate an inactive immune system.
5. Binding of ferric ions.
Lactoferrin is found in the following:
1. Body fluids.
2. Body secretions, such as milk, tears, saliva, etc.
3. Polymorphonuclear neutrophil (PMN) white blood cells.
Levels of lactoferrin are low after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), which is a technique used to treat some blood cancers. HSCT patients have only a 60% survival rate at 5 years because of bacterial, fungal and viral infections. Patients with low white blood cell counts treated with lactoferrin have a reduced rate of gram negative bacterial infections.
Mice given cyclophosphamide chemotherapy and irradiation had more rapid immune recovery with oral lactoferrin.
PMN white cells are deficient of lactoferrin in chronic myelogenous leukemia. This could result in defective inhibition of proliferation and lactoferrin could be therapeutic in leukemia. The studies are inconclusive in leukemia at this time, but the results are dramatic in HSCT.
Lactoferrin chelates iron from bacteria and damages bacterial cells. Bifidobacterium bifidum and Lactobacillus acidophilus are resistant to lactoferrin. Thus, the colonization of these beneficial bacteria in the intestine is enhanced by lactoferrin. This chelation is also the mechanism by which lactoferrin is anti-fungal. The ability of lactoferrin to bind iron reduces the production of reactive oxygen species.
Uncontrolled inflammation is seen in some patients as a complication of HSCT. Lactoferrin reduces the uncontrolled inflammation seen in myeloablative therapy. Lactoferrin is of benefit in uncontrolled inflammation, including contact dermatitis.
CONCLUSION: Lactoferrin has been used in the following, successfully:
1. Infectious diseases.
2. Uncontrolled inflammation.
3. Hematopoeitic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), which has a high morbidity and mortality.
Glycoproteins are combinations of carbohydrate and protein. Lactoferrin is a glycoprotein, as are mucin and chondroproteins. Lactoferrin is a part of a group of glycoproteins called transferrins that bind iron.
Contact dermatitis is inflammation of the skin, usually from contact with a plant or some chemical.
In myeloablative therapy, diseased bone marrow is destroyed to be replaced by a bone marrow transplant of foreign stem cells.