The vegetable cheese-like food, natto, is extremely popular in Japan with a history extending back over 1000 years. A fibrinolytic enzyme, termed nattokinase, can be extracted from natto; the enzyme is a subtilisin-like serine protease composed of 275 amino acid residues and has a molecular weight of 27.7 kDa. In vitro and in vivo studies have consistently demonstrated the potent pro-fibrinolytic effect of the enzyme. However, no studies to date have evaluated the effects of nattokinase on various hemorheological parameters and thus we have begun to assess the effects of the enzyme on RBC aggregation and blood viscosity. Blood samples were incubated with nattokinase (final activities of 0, 15.6, 31.3, 62.5 and 125 units/ml) for 30 minutes at 37°C.
RBC aggregation was measured using a Myrenne MA-1 aggregometer and blood viscosity assessed over 1-1000 s−1 with a computer controlled scanning capillary rheometer (Rheolog®). Our in vitro results showed a significant, dose-dependent decrease of RBC aggregation and low-shear viscosity, with these beneficial effects evident at concentrations similar to those achieved in previous in vivo animal trials. Our preliminary data thus indicate positive in vitro hemorheological effects of nattokinase, and suggest its potential value as a therapeutic agent and the need for additional studies and clinical trials.