When the arteries are damaged by oxidized LDL or other radicals leading to arteriosclerosis, the immune system responds by activating thrombin and fibrinogen. These stimulate the production of fibrin to scab the wound to promote the healing process. As this healing cascade matures, the body activates plasminogen, which produces the plasmin enzyme. Plasmin is called a fibrinolytic enzyme because it breaks down the fibrin after it is no longer needed on the wound. Inhibited plasmin genesis can result in excess fibrin and thrombin, which may slough into the bloodstream. This can lead to the dangerous condition of thrombosis. Freed fibrin and thrombin can close or occlude the blood vessels, causing heart attacks and strokes.
Several nutraceutical enzymes are available to assist the fibrinolytic process. The nattokinase enzyme, produced by the bacterium Bacillus natto, has been lauded for its fibrinolytic effects. Natto is a preparation of fermented soybeans, a traditional food in Japan. The resulting enzyme has fibrinolytic and proteolytic properties, delaying clotting, thrombosis and platelet aggregation39. In a randomized, placebo-controlled study of 92 high-risk deep vein thrombosis patients traveling by airplane—when acute deep vein thrombosis is more likely to occur—the nattokinase group experienced 60% less thrombosis than the control group40.
Obtaining and purifying nattokinase enzymes for supplement use has been perfected by half-century old Specialty Enzymes & Biochemicals Company, based in Chino, CA. Specialty Enzymes is also the leading global producer of another notable fibrinolytic enzyme called serratiopeptidase. Vic Rathi, MS, president of Specialty Enzymes, says that serratiopeptidase is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombotic effects. Serratiopeptidase is produced by the Serratia marcescens bacterium, a natural resident within the intestine of the silkworm. “Serratiopeptidase is the enzyme that allows the silkworm to arise from its sticky cocoon,” said Mr. Rathi.
Bromelain is another nutraceutical enzyme with fibrinolytic, proteolytic and anti-inflammatory properties. Naturally derived from pineapple, in vivo and in vitro studies have shown bromelain’s effectiveness in inhibiting thrombosis and platelet-aggregation by modulating plasmin-activator41,42,43. Papain, the enzyme contained in papaya, is also considered to have similar fibrinolytic properties.
Several products have recently been launched, featuring combinations of these enzymes. Rutozyme by Wobenzyme and Neprinol by Arthur Andrew Medical Products have both successfully combined multiple enzymes to create a full-spectrum effect. While Rutozyme contains nattokinase along with bromelain, papain and rutin, Neprinol contains nattokinase, serratiopeptidase, and a blend of bromelain, papain, and rutin. Mr. Rathi says that fibrinolytic blends combining both nattokinase and serratiopeptidase provide the body with a better chance of curtailing thrombosis, as each enzyme activates slightly different mechanisms. “Enteric coating is also important to guarantee assimilation before stomach acids destroy the enzymes,” he said.