Affecting Apoptosis: Aiding the immune system's ability to destroy pre-cancerous cells

There are several processes the body uses to prevent and correct damaged cells, damaged DNA, and damaged protein. One of these essential processes is called apoptosis. Apoptosis is defined as programmed cell death and occurs when a cell/DNA is damaged. It is an extremely important way of self-elimination for pre-cancerous cells and is highly regulated. There are genes that promote apoptosis like p53 (discussed in a previous blog) and genes that suppress apoptosis like AKT, also known as survival factors. Proper functioning of apoptosis depends on genetic mutations, environmental factors, nutritional status and is affected by medications as well.

AKT1 (PI3K) – Alpha serine/threonine protein kinase is a survival factor which regulates apoptosis. It acts to turn off other proteins associated with proper apoptosis. Over activation (i.e. suppression of apoptosis) can over stimulate cells and result in abnormal cells proliferation = oncogenesis. Abnormalities are common in cancer: gastric, ovary, pancreatic, colorectal, breast and prostate. There are five alleles where mutations can occur. If mutations are significant enough, patients can have over or under activity.

This gene and its product, according to peer reviewed studies, can be affected by nutrition. Mutations resulting in over activity suppress apoptosis and may increase the risk of pre-cancerous and cancerous cells. In these circumstances, nutritional antagonists are appropriate. N-acetyl cysteine and theanine fall under this category. N-acetyl cysteine is found in Brussel sprouts, lentils, oatmeal, sunflower seeds, red peppers, garlic, onions. Theanine is found in green and black tea; nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and soy/tempeh. I recommend, if one has a significant mutation in AKT, to incorporate these foods into the diet at least four times a week, one to two servings per day.

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