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Alex Hammer
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Chitin, a polymer of N- acetyl-β- d -glucosamine, is a major component of the insect cuticle. Solids NMR and gravimetric analysis revealed that the chitin content constitutes up to 40% of the exuvial dry mass depending on the insect species and varies considerably with the different cuticle types even in a single organism (Kramer et al., 1995).

Their previous study had found that inhaled chitin can cause an inflammatory response that ultimately leads to pulmonary fibrosis, a type of lung disease where scarring of lung tissue makes it hard to breathe. With such harmful effects, it would make sense if our bodies were able to break down inhaled chitin.

Is chitin indigestible by humans?

Chitin is indigestible by humans. If your diet includes large quantities of insects, you will find that the chitin acts in the same manner as the cellulose (also an indigestible structural glucose polymer) in plans - that is, it'll act as dietary fiber and you'll have pleasant, regular movement of the bowels. Ok thanks, that answers my question.

Does chitin cause lung disease?

However, a recent study suggests that chitin may cause lung diseases and that our bodies rely on a certain enzyme to get rid of it. Cartoon image of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Researchers from UCSF have found that an enzyme known as AMCase may be responsible for the breakdown of chitin in the airways of mice and possibly humans.


Chitin and Its Effects on Inflammatory and Immune Responses

Chitin and It's Effects on Inflammatory and Immune Responses

Daniel Elieh Ali Komi 1 2, Lokesh Sharma 3, Charles S Dela Cruz 4 5

Affiliations expand

PMID: 28251581 PMCID: PMC5680136 DOI: 10.1007/s12016-017-8600-0

Free PMC article


Chitin, a potential allergy-promoting pathogen-associated molecular pattern (PAMP), is a linear polymer composed of N-acetylglucosamine residues which are linked by β-(1,4)-glycosidic bonds. Mammalians are potential hosts for chitin-containing protozoa, fungi, arthropods, and nematodes; however, mammalians themselves do not synthetize chitin and thus it is considered as a potential target for recognition by mammalian immune system. Chitin is sensed primarily in the lungs or gut where it activates a variety of innate (eosinophils, macrophages) and adaptive immune cells (IL-4/IL-13 expressing T helper type-2 lymphocytes). Chitin induces cytokine production, leukocyte recruitment, and alternative macrophage activation. Intranasal or intraperitoneal administration of chitin (varying in size, degree of acetylation and purity) to mice has been applied as a routine approach to investigate chitin's priming effects on innate and adaptive immunity. Structural chitin present in microorganisms is actively degraded by host true chitinases, including acidic mammalian chitinases and chitotriosidase into smaller fragments that can be sensed by mammalian receptors such as FIBCD1, NKR-P1, and RegIIIc. Immune recognition of chitin also involves pattern recognition receptors, mainly via TLR-2 and Dectin-1, to activate immune cells to induce cytokine production and creation of an immune network that results in inflammatory and allergic responses. In this review, we will focus on various immunological aspects of the interaction between chitin and host immune system such as sensing, interactions with immune cells, chitinases as chitin degrading enzymes, and immunologic applications of chitin.

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