Life Extension Magazine July 2006
What Is Nuclear Factor-Kappa Beta?
By Julius G. Goepp, MD
For the past seven years, Life Extension has published extensive articles about chronic inflammation and the numerous diseases it causes, such as cancer, atherosclerosis, arthritis, dementia, and more.
In these articles, we showed how aging people over-express a molecule called nuclear factor-kappa beta, which then ignites a lethal inflammatory cascade throughout the body.
An abundance of new scientific studies has validated the multiple pathological effects inflicted by nuclear factor-kappa beta. Fortunately, scientists have discovered methods to safely suppress this insidious chronic inflammation-inducing agent. Aging humans are thus able to protect against a major cause of age-related disease.
In this article, we enlighten Life Extension members about what nuclear factor-kappa beta is and what can be done to suppress it.
Understanding the relationship between nuclear factor-kappa beta (NFkB) and inflammation is critical to maintaining your health and longevity. Over the last several years, scientists have gained new insights into how NFkB functions in the body. As a result, we are on the verge of finding ways to overcome our genetic predisposition toward degenerative conditions such as cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and even asthma.
Simply put, NFkB is a protein that acts as a switch to turn inflammation on and off in the body. Scientists describe NFkB as a “smoke sensor” that detects dangerous threats like free radicals and infectious agents. In response to these threats, NFkB “turns on” the genes that produce inflammation. As we age, NFkB expression in the body increases, provoking widespread chronic inflammation and setting the stage for diseases ranging from atherosclerosis and diabetes to Alzheimer’s. The knowledge of this simple fact should motivate us to counteract NFkB’s deleterious effects and thus guard against many of the diseases commonly associated with aging.
As we have reported over the last several years, inflammation is the key initiating factor in major degenerative diseases. In fact, some scientists estimate that inflammation underlies up to 98% of the diseases afflicting humans, including a vast array of seemingly different conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative disorders.1
NFkB is an instigating factor that unleashes inflammatory responses in chronic disease conditions. For example, NFkB can signal our cells to continue to multiply long past their normal life span, which can promote cancer. Furthermore, NFkB can further spark the smoldering inflammation that damages joint tissues, thereby provoking crippling arthritic conditions. NFkB likewise plays a role in spurring inflammation in the nervous system, which can set the stage for the onset of various neurological disorders. Scientists believe that NFkB-induced inflammation in the airways may play a role in asthma.
The identification of NFkB as a critical “switch” that “turns on” inflammation has profound implications for both preventing and treating some of today’s deadliest diseases. Clearly, NFkB is something we need to control if our goal is to lead a long and healthy life.
Fortunately, ongoing research continues to uncover a wealth of natural remedies that suppress NFkB’s activity in the body. These remedies provide the foundation for safe, effective nutritional strategies to quell NFkB and disease-provoking inflammation, thus providing a formidable defense against a vast array of deadly diseases and against aging itself.
Interacting with DNA: How NFkB Works
Present in the interior portion (cytoplasm) of every cell, NFkB is normally bound to inhibitory proteins that keep it in an inactive state. When cells are exposed to infectious invaders or stressors such as free radicals or environmental toxins (like cigarette smoke), NFkB is activated. NFkB then travels to the cells’ command center, known as the nucleus, where it binds with DNA to turn certain genes on or off. By interacting with more than 400 different genes, NFkB can thus activate the body’s blueprints for inflammation.1 These gene products are used to coordinate further inflammatory and immune responses in the body.
NFkB and Cancer Development
One of NFkB’s most lethal functions is inducing cancer in our bodies. Scientists are finding that, in addition to its central role in producing inflammation, NFkB plays an equally prominent and related role in the development of cancer.
NFkB acts in each of the main phases of cancer development, which are known as initiation, promotion, and progression. NFkB “switches on” genes that allow cells to become initiated, and once initiated, to have their growth promoted, and once promoted, to progress and invade healthy tissue.8 Successful cancers evade powerful repair and control mechanisms at each of the three distinct stages of cancer development.8 Since NFkB is involved in each of the three stages, it is critically important that we understand NFkB’s actions in our bodies and what we can do to better control them.
The NFkB system has emerged as the central actor in the link between inflammation and cancer. NFkB affects both malignant and non-malignant tumor cells. In malignant cells, it turns on genes that create resistance to apoptotic cell death and DNA damage, in effect promoting cancer development by rendering cells capable of reproducing, even when they are exposed to pharmaceutical anti-cancer agents. In non-malignant tumor cells, NFkB turns on genes that produce factors to stimulate blood vessel formation, in support of rapid tumor enlargement and progression. Finally, byproducts produced by NFkB stimulation can also damage DNA, thereby contributing to the very earliest stages of tumor initiation.8