Saturday, January 28, 2012

Using grape seeds to battle cancer, and more

Biological products sometimes contain compounds with unexpected qualities. Many of the drugs we have developed are based on chemicals found in plants, and we continue to find new ones that have medicinal value. In a recent study, scientists from the University of Colorado have discovered something that is able to kill cancer cells residing in head and neck. Surprisingly, the tumour killer is found in extract from grape seeds.

The researchers decided to perform experiments with grape seed extract, because there are clues that it holds medicinal properties. When they administered it to cell cultures, they found that those of a cancerous type died, while healthy ones remained alive. Additionally, experiments in mice revealed equal effectiveness, and proved that use of the extract is safe. No toxic effects were found. According to the scientists, the effect is 'dramatic', which is a good sign.
Grape seed extract naturally contains many compounds, which is why it is hard to say what is actually killing the cancer cells. Results have shown that DNA in the malicious cells is destroyed by the extract. At the same time, pathways to repair the sustained damage are blocked. Apparently, healthy cells are able to hold out, and are not affected by the damage-inducing qualities of the grape seed extract. It is generally known cancer cells are more genetically unstable, which is why they are more prone to die when exposed to DNA damage.

Grape seeds
It is not the first study being performed on extract from grape seeds. Many studies have shown possible anti-disease effects. Not only to combat cancer, but also to lower blood pressure, decrease the risk of heart disease and reduce inflammation. It seems very promising, but human studies are required to assess the actual health impact. As for cancer, the active compound may actually be be resveratrol, which is found in red wine as well. However, in some circumstances it is hypothesized to have carcinogenic properties, which means it causes cancer. Coincidently, scientists have recently shown that red wine is able to reduce breast cancer. As always, more research is needed.

It is interesting to find out whether it is resveratrol that has cancer-killing capabilities when it comes to tumours of head and neck. By unravelling its exact mechanism, we may be able to kill cancer cells more effectively. For example, we could develop new drugs based on the pathways found to be affected when grape seed extract kills cancer cells. Or we could improve the compounds we find to make them even more effective. Clinical trials are underway, which ought to give us more information about how useful it is exactly.

No comments:

Post a Comment