Immunomodulation by Shark Cartilage Extracts Dissertation

(2011). Immunomodulation by Shark Cartilage Extracts . 10.25148/etd.FI11072503

thesis or dissertation chair


  • Merly, Liza


  • The immune system is composed of innate and adaptive mechanisms. Innate immune responses are significantly modulated by immunomodulatory factors that act through the induction of specific patterns of cytokine production in responding cells. Human leukocytes have been shown to respond to substance(s) present in acid extracts of commercial shark cartilage (SC). Shark cartilage is a food supplement taken by consumers as a prophylaxis and for the treatment of conditions ranging from arthritis to cancer. No reliable scientific evidence in the literature supports the alleged usefulness of shark cartilage supplements, but their use remains popular. Cartilage extracts exhibit immunomodulatory properties by inducing various inflammatory, Th1-type cytokines and potent chemokines in human peripheral blood leukocytes (HPBL) in vitro. The objectives of the study were to (1) to determine the nature of the active component(s), (2) to define the scope of cellular response to SC extract, and (3) to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying bioactivity. Results showed that there are at least two cytokine-inducing components which are acid stable. One anionic component has been identified as a small (14-21 kDa) glycoprotein with at least 40% carbohydrate content. Shark cartilage stimulated HPBL to produce cytokines resembling an inflammatory, Th1 polarized response. Leukocyte-specific responses consist of both initial cytokine responses to SC directly (i.e., TNF-a) and secondary responses such as the IFN-γ response by lymphocytes following initial SC stimulation. Response of RAW cells, a murine macrophage cell line, indicated that TNF-α could be induced in macrophages of another mammalian species in the absence of other cell types. The results suggest that the human monocyte/macrophage is most likely to be the initial responding cell to SC stimulation. Stimulation of cells appears to engage at least one ligand-receptor interaction with TLR 4, although the role of TLR 2 cannot be ruled out. Initial activation is likely followed by the activation of the JNK and p38 MAPK signal transduction pathways resulting in activation, release, and translocation of transcription factor nuclear factor κB (Nf-kB). This dissertation research study represents the first in-depth study into characterizing the bioactive component(s) of commercial shark cartilage responsible for its immunomodulating properties and defining cellular responses at the molecular level.

publication date

  • July 12, 2011


  • arthritis
  • cartilage
  • cytokine
  • glycoprotein
  • innate immunity
  • leukocyte
  • shark

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)