Resveratrol triggers mixed messages in canine cancer

If you’re considering sharing (literally) a glass of wine with your favorite canine companion in honor of World Dog Day on August 26, you might want to think twice, a new study suggests.

Resveratrol, a compound commonly found in grape skins and red wine, and which has potential health benefits for humans, including for cancer prevention, may not necessarily do the same for dogs. 

The study, published by the University of Missouri (MU) in Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology, found that resveratrol does affect the immune systems of dogs but in different ways when introduced to dogs’ blood. The study was published on February 15. 

“This study makes it clear that resveratrol does cause the immune systems of dogs to change, but the changes it causes have created more questions,” said Sandra Axiak-Bechtel, Assistant Professor of Oncology at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine and one of the study authors. 

“We found that resveratrol simultaneously causes dogs’ immune systems to increase and decrease in different ways. If we can better understand why resveratrol makes these changes and learn to control them, the chemical may have valuable uses in treatments of cancer and other diseases in dogs and humans.”

For their study, the researchers added resveratrol to canine blood and measured innate immune system function. They found that resveratrol caused the stimulated white blood cells to release more pro-inflammatory and fewer anti-inflammatory cytokines, which are signals cells used to communicate with each other during infection and inflammation. These cytokines point to a stimulated immune system.

However, the researchers also observed a decrease in the ability of neutrophils, which are immune cells that help fight diseases, to kill bacteria.

“Seeing a decrease in neutrophil function typically means an immune system is losing the ability to kill invaders like bacteria,” Axiak-Bechtel said. “Combining this loss of bacteria-fighting ability with an increase in inflammatory cytokines creates a very interesting mixed message in terms of what resveratrol is doing to the immune system.

“It is clear that resveratrol is having a distinct effect on how the immune system reacts, but we still don’t fully understand how this reaction can be best used to fight disease," added Axial-Bechtel. Once we have a better understanding of this process, resveratrol could be a valuable supplementary treatment in fighting diseases like cancer.”

Video courtesy of the University of Missouri

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