Kappaphycus alvarezii, or elkhorn sea moss, is a species of red algae, and one of the most important commercial sources of carrageenans. Photo: courtesy quazoo.com

Mae Chan writes in RiseEarth.com about a recent study in Malaysia that found Kappaphycus alvarezii red seaweed helps in slowing down the growth rate of mammary tumors – which researchers say displays the alga’s potential as a natural aid in cancer treatment.

K. alvarezii is an algae species cultivated for its nutrients and nutraceutical uses in South East Asia. It is an important source of kappa carrageenan, a hydrocolloid used as food additive — acting as a gelling, emulsifying, thickening and stabilizing agent in both pharmaceutical and nutraceutical products.

The red seaweed has significant amounts of protein, vitamins, trace elements and a wide range of second metabolites not found in other organisms. Most importantly, it has antiproliferative properties — or the ability to inhibit cell growth.

To determine if K. alvarezii extract can slow down growth of cancer cells, researchers from the USCI University in Malaysia tested it on rats induced with mammary tumors by using DMBA, a powerful organ-specific laboratory carcinogen.

Twenty rats were divided into three groups: experimental, untreated, and normal, plus control groups. Both experimental and untreated groups received DMBA, with the experimental group receiving K. alvarezii crude extracts orally, and only after tumors developed.

An MTT assay determined if the cancer cells induced in the rats would be able to survive following treatments of various concentrations of K.alvarezii. The concentrations used during the study were 1.0 mg/mL, 3.0 mg/mL, 5.0 mg/mL, 7.0 mg/mL, 9.0 mg/mL, 12.0 mg/mL and 15.0 mg/mL respectively.

Researchers noted that K.alvarezii administered at 1.0mg/mL started inhibiting cell growth, and showed a reduction of cells compared to the solvent control.

“The percentage of cell viability of MCF-7 (breast cancer cells) was reduced from 84.91% to 0.81% which showed a significant reduction of cell viability when the concentration of K. alvarezii extract is increased,” they wrote. “Based on the observation, K. alvarezii extract is able to induce the apoptosis of the MCF-7.”

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