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Magnesium: From Cold and Flu to Cancer

New research from Switzerland has confirmed one way in which the immune system relies on magnesium to help you (& your horse) overcome infection and disease.

The research, conducted by Lotscher et al (2022), was working on understanding the role of magnesium in the bonding, or docking, of T cells, to infected and cancerous cells in the body.

T Cells – Seeking and Destroying

These immune system cells are initially made in the bone marrow, then migrate to the thymus to mature (hence the name T cells). Once mature, they enter circulation, where they are responsible for ‘seeking and destroying’ unwanted cells in the body (a process called apoptosis).

In a healthy body, this is how damaged, cancerous and tumorous cells are dealt with, before they can become a problem.

It’s also one way that your body overcomes infection. The T cells dock or attach themselves to the undesired cells, and then set off a chain reaction of biochemical events, ending in the death of the unwanted cell, before it can further replicate or cause harm.

To make that attachment, they rely on the integrin LFA-1, and LFA-1 relies on, you guessed it, magnesium.

LFA-1 and The Magnesium Factor

LFA-1, or lymphocyte function-associated antigen 1, is like a helper-arm, attached to the outside of a mature T cell. When it isn’t in use, it is folded over, in its ‘inactive formation’. When the arm is required, it is sent signals to extend itself into an active formation, so that it can connect to a pathogenic cell and destroy it.

Research over the years has demonstrated the vital importance of LFA-1 in combatting various types of tumours, cancers, viruses, and bacteria, and has concurred that magnesium-deficient subjects tend to struggle much more with overcoming infection and cancerous disease, although they were unsure exactly why.

Now, Lotscher et al have given us a clear insight into the relationship of LFA-1 and magnesium, known as the magnesium-LFA-1 axis.

They demonstrated that if the extracellular fluid (the fluid floating around outside of the cells) is low in magnesium, the arms aren’t properly stimulated to outstretch. They hang out in a semi-erect formation at best, where they can weakly attach to some pathogenic cells, but not well, and not all.

The Takeaway

Effectively, this means that one huge part of your horse’s immune system is only working at a fraction of its true ability, meaning that your horse is going to have a much harder time overcoming an infection.

If your horse is experiencing any kind of immune system challenge, be it a persistent or recurring viral or bacterial infection, tumour, or cancer, it makes sense to ensure that your horse’s dietary magnesium supply is at an optimum level.

Similarly, if you are planning to travel your horse and therefore present new immune system challenges, it would also be pertinent to take pre-emptive action, and make the most of a magnesium-rich immune system.

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