Single Cell Protein Spirulina-A Nutrient Treasure


Vidya Kameshwari, Selvakumar Selvaraj, Sangeetha Sundaramoorthy

Department of Microbiology, St. Peters Institute of Higher Education and Research,

Avadi, Chennai-600054, India

*Corresponding Author E-mail:



The micro algae Spirulina platensis is also known as single cell protein which is rich in all essential nutrients and vitamins and also possess tremandouspharmacolgical activity against many illness. In this review we have discussed about the important nutrient and pharmacalogical properties of spirulina such as antioxitdant and protein profile, anti viral property, anti cancerous property, neuro protective, eye sight protective activity, immunity boosting property and etc,. It is treasure of nutrients.


KEYWORDS: anti oxidant, single cell protein, anti cancerous, antiviral, neuro protective, immunity.




Spirulina is a minute and thread like structured cyanobacterium belong to oscillatoriaceae family. It was used as a food and food supplements in the history of many countries. It’s name obtained from spiral and helical feature of its filaments. 400 years ago spirulina was used as food in Mexico during Aztec civilization. Kanembu tribes till now uses Spirulina in the lake chad area of the Republic of chad where it is given as dried bread known as ‘dihe'.[1] The immortality of this cyanobacteria is a outcome of its nutritional potential and economic remark which emerges from the distinctive feature of the cultivated species. like S. fusiformis, S. laxissima, S. subsalsa, S. lonar, S. labyrin-thiformis, S. maxima and S. platensis. In these, S. maxima and S. platensis are mostly used for the nutritional and therapeutic reasons. Spirulina is consumed as a sustaining food concentrate as it is very affluent in protein [60-70%] [2], vitamins [4%] [3], essential fatty acids and anti-oxidants.


Spirulina is used as source of required fatty acids such as linoleic acid [LA], linolenic acid [GLA], [4], phycobiliproteins [5,6,7,8], the very important being phycocyanin and allophycocyanin [9,10], amino acids; the highest values are leucine [10.9% of total amino acids], valine [7.5%] and isoleucine [6.8%] [2] and minerals like iron. Groups of undernourished children and adults have resiprocated well to Spirulina administration [11]. Treatment of the victims of nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, especially children whose bone marrow had been damaged from radia-tion exposure sustained the immune system. [12] Toxicological research of all the Spirulina species have not exposed any toxiceffect on kidney, liver, reproductive system and body physiology during and after acute or chronic doses [13,14,15,16]. Spirulina does not contain cellulose cell walls and therefore does not require chemical or physical processes in order to become absorbable [17].



Spirulina contains several nutrients and vitamins. It has all the essential amino acids, Beta carotene, Gamma linolenic acid, vitamin B, chlorophyll Trace elements, etc.

It has,

·       180% more calcium than milk

·       5100% more iron than spinach

·       3100% more beta carotene than carrots

·       670% more protein than Tofo


Three grams of spirulina shows high antioxidant and anti inflammatory activity than five more fruits and vegetables. In phytonutrients spirulina is 31 times more better than blue berries, 60 times more better than spinach and 700 times more potent than apples [18,19,20]. It has several neutralizing and oxidative effect on heavy metals and free radicals [21].



Spirulina embrace several antiviral properties in them. Spirulina plantensis extracted from Spirulina possess antiviral ability. The most likely functioning components of Spirulina are the protein phycocyanin [22] , Sulphated polysaccharide fragments [23], GLA [24] and some sulpholipids [25] Sulphated polysaccharide of Spirulina ejects its antiviral activity by suppressing the replication of herpes simplex, human cytomegalovirus, influenza A, measles, mumps, human immunodeficiency and white spot syndrome viruses [26]. The effectual concentration of calcium in spirulina lessen viral multiplication by 50% [27] It is also called that Spirulina have 2-5% of sulpholipids, which are helpful against human immunodeficiency virus, particularly dealing against DNA polymerase for 50% inhibition of the virus, a lowest concentration of 24nm is needed. [28] A protein bound pigment [i.eallophycocyanin] refined from Spirulina platensis, has shown an antiviral action against enterovirus 71. [29] This pigment restrict 50% of enterovirus 71 induced opoptosis at concentration of 0.056-0.101mum. [30]



Spirulina comprise of good anti-inflammatory property that could be ascribed in immense portion of its anti oxidative properties and phycocyanin content [31][32]. Spirulina exhibits anti inflammatory effect averse to Zymosan causing arthritis in mice [33] by lowering the extent of beta glucurnidase in the diarthrosis fluid [34] Likewise, Spirulina fusiformis preserve against rheumatoid arthritis suitable to its anti peroxidative property. Ethanolic extract of Spirulina platensis retains considerable anti-inflammatory property in both carrageenan induced raw paw edema [acute model] test [35].


Spirulina raises antibody production [36]. Spirulina could regulate the unenviable effects of acetic acid induced ulcerative colitis in rats illustrated by raising the activity of anti oxidant enzymeCAT and SOD as well as GSH content with, considerable depletion in lipid peroxidation makes MDA and protein carbonyl [PCO] inclusion to control colon inflammatory makers, myelo peroxidase [MPO] and prostaglandid [PGE2] as well as pro inflammatory cytokines . Tumor necrosis factor [TNFalpha] and interleukins [IL-Ibeta, IL-6] with re-impose the analyse structure of colon [37].


Spirulina maximum proclaim anti inflammatory property in Freund's complete adjuvant induced chronic inflammation in rats by controlling mobility, body temperature, differential leukocytic count and defends against oxidative strain in the joint of unveiled rats.



The practice of Spirulina as a dietary additive has many diverse useful effect in forbidding or regulating hyperglycerolemia and hypercholestolemia as described by some authors [38].


Spirulina maxima had a decisive role in covering mice from hyperlipidemic composed by simvastain by lessening the contents of total lipid and triacylglycerols [39]. Spirulina also shows anti lipidemic and anti hyperglycemia activity by reducing the level of blood glucose, managing cholestrol and triglycerides and enhancing insulin resistance [40] [41]. Spirulina maxima reacts as hypoglycemic agent in streptozotocin persuaded diabetic male wistar rats [42].


The hypocholestrolemic and hyperglycemic effect of Spirulina grant the ability role in ministration of the insight impaired related to obesity and aging in rats where oral regulation of spirulina combined with glycyrrhizin to rats lowered the serum glucose, cholestrol and leptin level as well as the acetyl cholinesterase [AChE] activity in the hippocampal tissue homogenates of the obese rats [43].



Spirulina also has neuroprotective ability where it considerably decreased the amount of violation of cerebral cortexand raised post stroke locomotor activity in rats. Executive of spirulina for long duration could reduce the ischemic brain destruction [44] as well as exhibited a defensive role in nervous system against oxidative strain initiated by disclosure to fluoride in the progeny of pregnant rats naked to fluoride [45].


Spirulina maxima shows neuroprotective effect against the 6-OHDA induced toxicity in the rat striatum and founded that spirulina maxima lowers the level of ROS, nitric oxide and lipoperoxidation in the striatum with improved locomotor activity with conservation of dopamine mitochondrial activity.[46] Likewise, care of rats with Spirulina platensis had some favourable effect in intensifying the locomotor function of hind limb and diminish the morphological injury of the spinal cord [47].



Spirulina's polysaccharide preserves DNA barren to radiation from being destroyed particularly the action of excision repair and composition of unintended [48] Spirulina also expressed to lessen the recurrence of micronucleus in polychromatic erythrocytes of bone mice unprotectected to gamma radiation [49] Likewise, polysaccharide of Spirulina intiate cell nucleus enzymes and elevate the DNA repair procedure [50]. In the same way, Spirulina was found to be protective toward mice from unpleasant effects of few toxicants like cyclophosphamide, cisplalin and urethrane by condensing both lipid peroxidation and chromosomal destruction [51]. Spirulina considerably lowered the percentage of DNA fragmentation in liver and decreasing the incidence of micronucleus in erythrocytes of animal fed diet abomination with aflatoxin [52].



Spirulina reacts as a usable food sustaining favourable intestinal flora specially, Lactobacillus and Bafidus nurturing a healthy populace of these bacteria in the intestine lowers potential disputes from pathogens like E.coli and Candida albicans. Nourishing rats, a diet addition with 5% Spirulina for 100 days resulted in the following:

·       The mass of the Caecum extended by 13%.

·       Lactobacillus extended by 32.7%.

·       Vitamin B1, inside the Caecum extended by 43%.


Since Spirulina, did not dispense this additional B1, it must have progressed overall B1 inclusion. The research proposed that, consuming Spirulina rise efficient inclusion VitaminB1 and another Vitamins from the overall diet [53] Restoratory effect of extracellular production from algae has been noticed [54] on lactic acid bacteria including Lactobacillus lactis, Streptococcus thermophilus, L.casei, L.acidophilus and L.bulgaricus.



Spirulina aids in raising immunity and enhancing fighting to viral infections. Spirulina magnifies the elements of the mucosal and systemic immune system as it initializes the cells of innate immune system. In humans, mammals, chicken and fish - Spirulina induces an immune restoring action by inflating refusal to infection. Spirulina accelerates macrophages, T-cells and B-cells [55]. Spirulina is also efficient to impede carcinogens [28] Spirulina utilization produces high amount of natural killer cells, interferons, gamma and more potents of interleukins.[56] Intake of Spirulina grants the functional conservation of the intestinal epithelium which reacts as primary mucosal barrier against infections [57]. Hinderance of humoral immune response, cell mediate immune response [delayed hypersensitivity] and TNF- alpha was spoted in a dose dependent manner in mice [58].


Spirulina also acts against hay fever [59]. In allergic rhinitis sufferer, a newly double – blind, placebo – controlled survey revealed patent reduction in the excretion of pro-inflammatory IL-4 [60]. Spirulina is a mighty inhibitor than chlorella. Annexin-v-staining claimed that aqueous extract of spirulina induced apoptosis of HSC next 12hours of treatment, in extension, the aqueous extract body spirulina activates a cell cycle apprehend HSC [hepatic stellate cell] at the G2 /M stage [61].



The water extract of Spirulina platensis inhibit the growth of human colon carcinoma cells [HCT116] and Hepatocellular carcinoma cells [HEPG2] in invitro studies [62]. The chloroform extract of crude Spirulina platensis and chlorella vulgaris inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells in invitro cell line. It has the antiproliferative activity against the cancer cells [63]. The methanolic extract of the Spirulina inhibit the growth of human breast cancer cell line [MCF 7] and the human cancer cell line L2OB within short incubation period. The water extract of S.platensis also inhibit the growth of mice intestinal carcinoma cell lines [64]. The 70% Ethanolic extract of spirulina shows extraordinary cytotoxicity in human acute leukemiakasumi – 1 and chronic myelogenousleukemia k – 562 cell lines [65]


Other than these cancerous cells the Spirulina extract inhibit the growth of Liver cancer cells [66], Hepatoma [70] and lung cancer cells in mice [71], oral squamous cell carcinoma in human and hamster [67], squamous cell carcinoma [68] and oral buccal pouches tumor in hamster [69].



The continuous supplementation of spirulina to the aged people with anaemia increases the concentration of Mean capsular hemoglobin in blood eventually it increases the CBC [72].


12 weeks supplementation of spirulina shows significant increase in the Mean concentration of HB, MCV, MCH and MCHC in the children with anaemia and it increases the level of Iron in blood, Thus the spirulina can be used as medicine for anaemia [73].


The administration of spirulina in rabbits showed distinguish anti anaemic activity [74]



Spirulina powder contain 65 – 70 % of crude protein and it is rich in vitamins, almost all the vitamins present in the spirulina [75]. C- phycocyanin is the important phytochemical present in the spirulina which is rich in protein [76] Spirulina contains eight essential and eight non- essential amino acids that construct the protein molecule. Thus it can be used as a major source for protein malnutrition [77].



Spirulina exhibit anti nephrotoxicity activity induced by different compounds. Spirulina reduces the urea and Creatinine level in rats with nephrotoxicity induced by cisplatin [78]


Cyclosporine induced nephrotoxicity in rats is neutralized by the administration of spirulina [79]


Other than this studies proves that spirulina give protection against nephrotoxicity and urotoxicity in rats induced by cyclophosphamide [80], cadmium induced toxicity in albino rats [81] and renal toxicity in wister rats [82], chromium induced nephrotoxicity in Sprague- dawley rats [83].



Spirulina is rich in zeaxanthin, a xanthophyll that is present in human eyes, which reduces the probability of cataracts and age related macular degeneration. 100gms of dried spirulina powder contains 74000μg of zeaxanthin. The dietary supplement of spirulina powder increases the serum zeaxanthin level in human beings [84]


Topical application of the extract of spirulina platensis inhibit the corneal neovascularization induced by NaoH [alkali burn] in mice [85,86].



The present review concludes that the micro algae Spirulina platensis posses large amount of vitamins and nutrients. So, it is a best dietary source for the malnurition and the other flavanoids of the spirulina has different curative effect against several incurable ailments like cancer and nephrotoxicity. Its anti viral and microbial activity invade the infectious microbes in host. So, it can be used as medicine for diseases as well as daily nutrient source.



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Received on 10.02.2020         Modified on 25.03.2020

Accepted on 13.04.2020     ©AandV Publications All right reserved

Res.  J. Pharmacology and Pharmacodynamics.2020; 12(2): 49-54.

DOI: 10.5958/2321-5836.2020.00010.5