CM NEWS – An ancient Chinese herbal formula composed mainly of ginseng (人參), poria (fu ling, 茯苓) and rehmannia (di huang, 地黃) has been found to be able to slow down the growth of tumour of the liver and inhibit the expression of a special protein that appears to participate in the development of hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common form of primary liver cancers.
The purpose of the study was to investigate the effects of qiongyugao on the expression of hepatitis B x antigen (HBxAg) in BALB/c-nu mice (picture) into which human hepatic carcinoma cells were transplanted, and to analyze its specific mechanism in prophylaxis and treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma.
Increasing evidence suggests that the viral contribution to hepatocellular carcinoma involves persistently high levels of the virus-encoded X antigen, or hepatitis B x antigen (HBxAg), in the liver of chronically infected patients. High levels of intrahepatic HBxAg expression directly correlate with the intensity of liver disease. HBxAg transforms cells in vitro, whereas sustained high levels of HBxAg in transgenic mice are associated with the development of hepatocellular carcinoma, suggesting that HBxAg plays an important role in the pathogenesis of this tumour type.
In the present study, a nude mouse model with the transplantation of human hepatic carcinoma cells was established to observe the preventive and therapeutic effects of Qiongyugao on the body weight and tumour weight of the mice. The expression of HBxAg in tumour and liver tissue wsa detected by immunohistochemical studies.
RESULTS: Compared with model control group, prophylaxis and treatment with Qiongyugao increased the body weight, depressed the tumour weight and inhibited HBxAg expression. The same efficacy was shown in both Qiongyugao prophylaxis group and cyclophosphamide treatment group.
CONCLUSION: Qiongyugao can slow down the growth of tumour and inhibit the expression of HBxAg, which may be an essential mechanism in prophylaxis and treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma.
[Xi Bao Yu Fen Zi Mian Yi Xue Za Zhi (細胞與分子免疫學雜誌). 2007 Jan;23(1):56-9.]
APS.org – Many patients with high blood pressure have sought relief from complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). In so doing, many have consumed danshen, a Chinese herb used in Oriental medicine that promotes blood flow and treats cardiovascular disease.
Tanshinone IIA, an antioxidant in salviae miltiorrhizae (Dan shen 丹参). Since tanshinone IIA is widely available, a team of researchers has used it to investigate if this active ingredient can reduce blood pressure. In a soon-to-be-released study, using an animal model, the scientists have found that tanshinone IIA does reduce blood pressure.
Summary of Methodology
To assess the effect of tanshinone IIA, the protocol consisted of several parts. The researchers applied the 2-kidney-1-clip protocol to induce renal hypertension in male golden Syrian hamsters. The animals were anesthetized and a retroperitoneal approach was used to place a silver clip to constrict the right renal artery. Sham-operated hamsters and mice underwent the same procedure, except for the placement of a clip.
Both sets of hamsters received 50 μg of tanshinone IIA/100g of body weight once a day for two weeks. After the two-week treatment period, mean arterial blood pressure was measured in the right carotid artery. To examine the microvascular actions of tanshinone IIA researchers applied it topically to the hamsters’ cheek pouch or mice cremaster muscles to achieve the final concentration of one μg/ml or five μg/ml. After the application of tanshinone IIA, the experiment was continued for an additional 60-minute period in order to measure arteriolar diameter and peri-arteriolar nitric oxide concentration.
Tanshinone IIA was found to have significantly reduced blood pressure in the hamsters. The experimental constriction of the renal artery increased mean arterial pressure to 161.2±6.9 mmHg relative to 114.3±9.2 mmHg in age-matched hamsters. Treatment with 50 μg tanshinone IIA/100g body for two weeks reduced the mean arterial pressure from 161.2±6.9 to 130.0±7.8 mmHg.
The research team also discovered that tanshinone IIA caused widening of the arterioles in the hamster cheek pouch microcirculation via enhanced expression of endothelial nitric oxide synthase. The topical application of tanshinone IIA at one μg/ml and five μg/ml caused significant dose-related vasodilation, indicated by the increased agent/control ratio of arteriolar diameters from 1.0 to 1.25±0.08 and 1.57±0.11, respectively, in the hamster cheek pouch. The increase in arteriolar diameter ratio was significant relative to the vehicle for each concentration as well as for comparison between the two concentrations of tanshinone IIA.
As a result of the findings the researchers concluded that tanshinone IIA: (1) significantly reduced blood pressure in hamsters, (2) enhanced the expression of endothelial nitric oxide synthase, (3) increased the production of nitric oxide and (4) induced blood pressure changes through vasodilation in hamster blood microvessels. While the mechanisms of how tanshinone IIA or danshen work in hypertension are not yet fully understood, these results contribute to the effort to bring complementary and alternative medicine and allopathic care closer together in the treatment of hypertensive patients.
The study will soon be published in the American Journal of Physiology – Heart and Circulatory Physiology (December 15, 2006), doi:10.1152/ajpheart.01027.2006, and is entitled Endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase is a Molecular Vascular Target for the Chinese Herb Danshen in Hypertension. It was conducted by the team of David D. Kim, PhD, OMD; Fabiola A. Sánchez, PhD; Ricardo G. Durán, BS; Takehito Kanetaka, MD; and Walter N. Durán, PhD, all of the Program in Vascular Biology, Department of Pharmacology and Physiology and Department of Surgery, UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, Newark, NJ.
CM NEWS – A group of scientists have been able to show in a study that extracts from earthmworm, or Pheretima (di long, 地龍, picture left, usually dried), have led to some encouraging results in combating asthmatic symptoms.The study was conducted by traditional Chinese medicine researchers in Shanghai and has been published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.
The researchers write that Pheretima (family Megascolecidae, i.e. earthworm) has been documented as a potent agent for the treatment of cough and breathing difficulty in traditional Chinese medicine for nearly 2000 years.
In the study, the water extract of Pheretima was separated into three fractions of the ethanolic precipitate, the alkaline fraction and the acidic fraction.
Guinea pig’s tracheal rings were stimulated by histamine to contract, while isolated rat tracheal epitheliums was triggered by carbachol to increase short circuit current.
Results show that among the three fractions of Pheretima, the acidic fraction shows the most potent spasmolytic effects on histamine-induced contractions and the most inhibitory activities on carbachol triggered increase in short circuit current.
Further in vivo studies also display that the acidic fraction could protect experimental asthma model induced by the combination of histamine and acetylcholine chloride in guinea pigs to prolong the latent periods of asthma (P<0.05) and significantly decrease the cough frequency caused by ammonia water in mice (P<0.001).
According to TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) texts, Pheretima is known for its anti-asthmatic effects and diuretic effects. It’s used commonly in TCM treatments (here).
Earthworms used as TCM would have their internal organs removed before they are dried under the sun. One dried earthworm (Pheretima) is about 15-20 cm in length and 1-1.5 cm in width.
Pheretimas are brownish in colour and smell a little fishy. Earthworms suitable to be processed into Pheretima are mainly found in Guangdong and Guangxi.
Ingredients extracted from Pheretimas include, but not limited to, xanthine (which helps relax the airway muscles) and succinic acid (which helps calm down the respiratory system); as well as lumbritin which serves like blood thinner.
[Journal of Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Dec 17]
CM NEWS – Replacing daily intake of white rice with red yeast rice may have a positive lipid-lowering effects in patients with primary hyperlipidemia, a meta-analysis of 93 randomized trials concludes.
The study was released in Chinese Medicine journal and was a joint study by alternative medicine experts in Norway and traditional Chinese medicine researchers in Shanghai and Beijing.
The meta study analyzed data from 93 randomized trials which include a total of 9625 participants. Researchers find that hyperlipidemia patients who have consumed red rice show significant reduction of serum total cholesterol levels (weighted mean difference -0.91 mmol/L, 95% confidence interval -1.12 to -0.71), triglycerides levels (-0.41 mmol/L, -0.6 to -0.22), and LDL-cholesterol levels (-0.73 mmol/L, -1.02 to -0.043), and increase of HDL-cholesterol levels (0.15 mmol/L, 0.09 to 0.22), compared to placebo groups.
Researchers emphasize that the positive effect on lipid levels by red rice shown by these studies indicates short term benefits. Whether red rice should be recommended as an alternative treatments for primary hyperlipidemia requires further studies.
According to Medline, red yeast rice contains several compounds collectively known as Monacolins, substances known to inhibit cholesterol synthesis. One of these, “Monacolin K” is a potent inhibitor of HMG-CoA reductase, and is also known as Mevinolin or Lovastatin (Mevacor®, a drug produced by Merck & Co., Inc).
Medline also says:
There is limited evidence about the side effects of red yeast. Mild headache and abdominal discomfort can occur. Side effects may be similar to those for the prescription drug lovastatin (Mevacor®). Heartburn, gas, bloating, muscle pain or damage, dizziness, asthma, and kidney problems are possible. People with liver disease should not use red yeast products.
In theory, red yeast may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in patients with bleeding disorders or taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary. A metabolite of Monascus called mycotoxin citrinin (CTN) in fermentation may be harmful.
The first large-scale computer screenings of Chinese herbs — commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine — has revealed a wide variety of compounds with potential for use in treating HIV/AIDS, cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, arthritis and other diseases, according to scientists in London.
In an article scheduled for the March 26 issue of the ACS’ Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling, a bi-monthly publication, David J. Barlow and colleagues note that such in silico research is becoming increasingly effective in identifying promising compounds that could be candidates for drug development. In silico (”in silicon”) means research done on computers or via computer simulation and has joined the in vivo and in vitro experiments traditionally used in the life sciences.
The researchers screened a database of chemical structures of Chinese herbal constituents from 240 species of plants for possible activity against various diseases. About 62% of the species were found to contain chemicals with characteristics required for activity against at least one disease and 53% against two or more diseases.
The study also describes corroborative evidence from the scientific literature that supported many of the computer predictions. In a companion article in the journal, the researchers describe the herbal databases.
“Virtual Screening of Chinese Herbs with Random Forest”
“Phytochemical Databases of Chinese Herbal Constituents and Bioactive Plant Compounds with Known Target Specificities”
David J. Barlow, Ph.D.
King’s College London
London, United Kingdom
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