In a special issue of the research journal Biochimica et Biophysica Acta Biomembranes, entitled Membrane Lipid Therapy: Drugs Targeting Biomembranes, Garth Nicolson PhD, MD (H) and Michael Ash DO, ND published an invited review on the role of a specially prepared mixture of glycerolphospholipids on human health, via their interactions with cell membranes and natural replacement of damaged membrane phospholipids.[i] Exploring the vital role that glycerolphospholipids play both in cell membranes and intracellular organelles, such as mitochondria, this review along with other recent articles2,3 explore practical ways to replace damaged lipids within these important structures. This allows cellular membranes to maintain their chemical and electrical barrier functions and also act as cellular signals to promote positive changes in cellular functions and health.
This novel field, described as Membrane Lipid Replacement is growing and evolving rapidly, providing treatments that are now in general use or that are being studied for their application to numerous changes in health related to altered cellular membranes.1,[ii],[iii] Nowhere is this more apparent than in mitochondrial membranes, which provide most of our cellular energy needs. This field has arisen from relevant discoveries on the behaviour of membranes in recent decades, and it paves the way to adopt new approaches in modern nutrition.1 ,2 ,3
The plasma or cell membrane was historically viewed by most scientists as a fixed physical barrier where lipids arranged as a bilayer performed a mainly structural function and proteins undertook the relevant catalytic and signaling tasks. Although this view of the membrane lipid bilayer sandwiched between protein layers prevailed until recent years, studies carried out in the 1970s clearly indicated that membrane fluidity allowed lipids and proteins to move relatively freely along the plane of membranes, which could also regulate their activities. The land mark paper published by Singer and Nicolson in 1972 proposed the Fluid Mosaic Membrane model, which defined the membrane structure as an orientated two-dimensional viscous solution of amphipathic proteins (or lipoproteins) and lipids (and glycolipids) in thermodynamic equilibrium, where proteins and glycoproteins are asymmetrically distributed across a dynamic lipid bilayer matrix.[iv] Over the years this model has evolved into more complex versions, but the basic concepts of this model have remained little changed in the past 40+ years.[v]
Nicolson and Ash explain that ‘Membrane Lipid Replacement’ is the use of functional, oral supplements containing mixtures of cell membrane glycerolphospholipids, plus fructooligosaccharides (for protection against oxidative, bile acid and enzymatic damage) and antioxidants, in order to safely replace damaged, oxidized, membrane phospholipids and restore membrane, organelle, cellular and organ function. Defects in cellular and intracellular membranes are characteristic of all chronic medical conditions, including cancer, and normal processes, such as aging. Once the replacement glycerolphospholipids have been ingested, dispersed, complexed and transported, while being protected by fructooligosaccharides and several natural mechanisms, they can be delivered and inserted into cell membranes, lipoproteins, lipid globules, lipid droplets, liposomes and other carriers.
Eventually the glycerolphospholipids arrive at their final membrane destinations due to ‘bulk flow’ principles, and there they can stimulate the natural removal and replacement of damaged membrane lipids while undergoing further enzymatic alterations. Clinical trials have shown the benefits of Membrane Lipid Replacement in restoring mitochondrial function and reducing fatigue in aged subjects and chronically ill patients. Recently Membrane Lipid Replacement has been used to reduce pain and other symptoms as well as removing hydrophobic chemical contaminants, suggesting that there are additional new uses for this safe, natural medicine supplement.
References[i] Nicolson GL, Ash ME. Membrane Lipid Replacement for chronic illnesses, aging and cancer using oral glycerolphospholipid formulations with fructooligosaccharides to restore phospholipid function in cellular membranes, organelles, cells and tissues. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 2017; 1859: 1704-1724. View Full Paper
[ii] Nicolson GL. Membrane Lipid Replacement: clinical studies using a natural medicine approach to restoring membrane function and improving health. Intern. J. Clin. Med. 2016; 7: 133-143. View Full Paper
[iii] Nicolson GL, Rosenblatt S, Ferreira de Mattos G, Settineri R, Breeding PC, Ellithorpe RR, Ash ME. Clinical uses of Membrane Lipid Replacement supplements in restoring membrane function and reducing fatigue in chronic diseases and cancer. Discoveries 2016; 4(1): e54. View Full Paper
[v] Nicolson GL. The Fluid—Mosaic Model of Membrane Structure: still relevant to understanding the structure, function and dynamics of biological membranes after more than 40 years. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 2014; 1838: 1451-1466. View Full Paper