Mesoglycan is a type of substance found in many tissues in the body, including the joints, intestines, and the lining of blood vessels. Chemically, mesoglycan is related to the blood-thinning drug heparin and the supplement chondroitin . Unlike chondroitin, mesoglycan is primarily used to treat diseases of blood vessels. Preliminary evidence suggests that mesoglycan may be helpful for atherosclerosis, varicose veins, phlebitis, and hemorrhoids.
Mesoglycan is not an essential nutrient because the body usually manufactures it from scratch. For supplement purposes, mesoglycan is commercially extracted from the intestines of pigs. Very similar substances can be produced from cartilage, bone, and the lining of large blood vessels, and are often used interchangeably.
Most proposed uses of mesoglycan involve diseases of blood vessels. For example, evidence suggests that mesoglycan may slow the development of hardening of the arteries , perhaps by lowering cholesterol levels , "thinning" the blood, or through other effects. 1–3
People with severe hardening of the arteries sometimes develop blockage in the arteries of the legs, a condition called intermittent claudication . This condition limits the ability to walk by causing intense, crampy pain after walking a relatively short distance. There is some evidence that mesoglycan may help. 20
Warning: Do not self-treat phlebitis. It is a potentially deadly disease.
The substance chondroitin is used for the treatment of osteoarthritis . Based on the chemical similarities between chondroitin and mesoglycan, researchers conducted a large (almost 400 participant) 5-year, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of injected mesoglycan for slowing the progression of osteoarthritis. 21 Unfortunately, no benefits were seen.
A 20-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial that enrolled 242 people evaluated the effects of mesoglycan (100 mg a day orally, after a short course of injected treatment) for treating intermittent claudication . 20 Significantly more participants in the mesoglycan group responded to treatment (defined as a greater than 50% improvement in walking distance) than in the placebo group.
In a double-blind, comparative study, men with atherosclerosis in the arteries of the heart (coronary artery disease) were given either 200 mg daily of mesoglycan or no extra treatment. 10 After 18 months, the layering of the vessel lining was 7.5 times greater in the untreated group than in the mesoglycan group, a significant difference. However, because this was not a double-blind placebo-controlled trial, the results can't be taken as truly reliable. (For information on why double blind studies are essential for proving a treatment effective, see Why Does This Database Depend on Double-blind Studies? )
Additional preliminary evidence that mesoglycan might help atherosclerosis comes from other studies in animals and people. 11,12
Several studies suggest that mesoglycan may be helpful in the treatment of vein problems, such as varicose veins/venous insufficiency , phlebitis , and hemorrhoids . 14–19 For example, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 183 individuals with leg ulcers caused by poor vein function were treated with either placebo or mesoglycan (first by injection and then orally) for 24 weeks. 19 The results of this double-blind study suggest that mesoglycan significantly improved the rate at which the leg ulcers healed.
Mesoglycan is essentially ground-up pig intestines and is believed to be safe, even if taken in large quantities. However, because mesoglycan appears to decrease blood clotting, it should not be combined with prescription blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), ticlopidine (Ticlid), pentoxifylline (Trental), or heparin, or drugs in the aspirin family. Maximum safe dosages for young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease have not been determined.
1. Laurora G, Cesarone MR, Belcaro G, et al. Control of the progress of arteriosclerosis in high risk subjects treated with mesoglycan. Measuring the intima media [translated from Italian]. Minerva Cardioangiol . 1998;46:41–47.
2. Laurora G, Cesarone MR, De Sanctis MT, et al. Delayed arteriosclerosis progression in high risk subjects treated with mesoglycan. Evaluation of intima-media thickness. J Cardiovasc Surg . 1993;34:313–318.
4. Petruzzellis V, Velon A. Therapeutic action of oral mesoglycan in the pharmacologic treatment of the varicose syndrome and its complications [in Italian; English abstract]. Minerva Med . 1985;76:543–548.
9. Baggio B, Gambaro G, Marchini F, et al. Correction of erythrocyte abnormalities in idiopathic calcium-oxalate nephrolithiasis and reduction of urinary oxalate by oral glycosaminoglycans. Lancet . 1991;338:403–405.
10. Laurora G, Cesarone MR, Belcaro G, et al. Control of the progress of arteriosclerosis in high risk subjects treated with mesoglycan. Measuring the intima media [translated from Italian]. Minerva Cardioangiol . 1998;46:41–47.
11. Tanganelli P, Bianciardi G, Carducci A, et al. Updating on in-vivo and in-vitro effects of heparin and other glycosaminoglycans (mesoglycan) on arterial endothelium: a morphometrical study. Int J Tissue React . 1992;14:149–153.
16. Petruzzellis V, Velon A. Therapeutic action of oral mesoglycan in the pharmacologic treatment of the varicose syndrome and its complications [in Italian; English abstract]. Minerva Med . 1985;76:543–548.
21. Pavelka K, Gatterova J, Gollerova V, et al. A 5-year randomized controlled, double-blind study of glycosaminoglycan polysulphuric acid complex (Rumalon®) as a structure modifying therapy in osteoarthritis of the hip and knee. Osteoarthritis Cartilage . 2000;8:335–342.
22. Petrigni G, Allegra L. Aerosolised hyaluronic acid prevents exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, suggesting novel hypotheses on the correction of matrix defects in asthma. Pulm Pharmacol Ther . 2006 Jan 3 [Epub ahead of print]
Last reviewed August 2013 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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