Immunomodulatory activities of non-commercialized leafy vegetables in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
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Immunomodulation using plants is of primary interest in scientific communities because it provides an alternative to conventional chemotherapy for a wide range of diseases. It is based on the ability of the plants to effectively modulate immune functions, thus being able to promote positive health and maintain the body’s resistance to infection. This research is aimed to evaluate the immunomodulatory potential of fourteen traditional leafy vegetables from Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa on human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). In this study the methanolic and aqueous extracts were screened for lymphocyte proliferation using the MTT assay. The cytokine response was evaluated by measuring the secretion of interleukin 10 (IL-10) and interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) using the ELISA assay. The subpopulation of T cells viz., CD4+, CD8+, NK and B cells were measured by flow cytometry. Most of the methanolic extracts stimulated PBMC’s whilst a few suppressed lymphocyte proliferation. Most of the aqueous extracts were inactive. The methanolic extracts of Amaranthus hybridus and Centella asiatica stimulated PBMC’s and showed an increase in IFN-γ secretion and the CD8+ cytotoxic T cells and B cells. Thus, they induced the Tc-1 immune response and stimulated cell mediated immunity. The methanolic extracts of Asystasia gangetica, Bidens pilosa, Emex australis, Justicia flava Momordica balsamina, Oxygonum sinuatum, Senna occidentalis and Sonchus oleraceous and the aqueous extracts of Amaranthus spinosus and Asystasia gangetica, Ceratotheca triloba, Oxygonum sinuatum, Physalis viscosa and Sonchus oleaceous stimulated PBMC’s and showed an increase in IL-10 secretion and the CD8+ cytotoxic T cells and B cells. Thus, they induced the Tc-2 immune response and stimulated humoral immunity. Also, the methanolic extracts of Amaranthus spinosus and Ceratotheca triloba and the aqueous extracts of Bidens pilosa and Justicia flava increased both IL-10 and IFN-γ secretion and the CD8+ vii cytotoxic T cells indicating the stimulation of both the Tc1 and Tc2 cytokine profiles. The elevated secretion of IFN-γ and IL-10 caused by the extracts can be attributed to the CD8+ cytotoxic T cells and B cells. The findings of this study show that leafy vegetables hold promise as immunomodulatory candidates. They may enhance cell-mediated immune functions by a pro-inflammatory response whilst some can promote humoral immune functions by means of an anti-inflammatory response. Further investigation should be considered on the effect of the extracts on other immune parameters.