Popular herb inhibits hep B expression, hope for new drug



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March 7, 2007  
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huang qin, chinese medicine, hepatitis, wogoninCM NEWS – An active ingredient of a popular traditional Chinese medicine huang qin (Scutellaria radix, ??) has been shown to curb expression of two antigens in the human body that are indicative of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. As such, the substance is now being reviewed to see if an anti-HBV drug could be derived.

A recent study by researchers at the department of physiology of China Pharmaceutical University, Nanjing, China tested the effectiveness of wogonin (han huang qin su, ????), the major active constituent of huang qin on its anti-hepatitis B virus functions.

According to the researchers, huang qin has been used for thousands of years, mainly for the treatment of inflammatory conditions including hepatitis. Wogonin has attracted increasing scientific attention in recent years due to its potent biological activities.

In modern medicine, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of wogonin have been widely used in clinical treatment of inflammatory diseases, including atopic dermatitis, hyperlipemia, and atherosclerosis. It has been reported that wogonin has the potential for therapeutic use in the treatment of atherosclerosis and restenosis based upon its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antithrombotic, and antiproliferative activities.

In the present study, however, the researchers were able to add another function to wogonin by demonstrated wogonin’s anti-hepatitis B virus (HBV) activity both in vitro and in vivo.

In the human HBV-transfected liver cell, wogonin effectively suppressed the secretion of two HBV antigens (namely, HBsAg and HBeAg) in blood after 10 days of application. Wogonin also reduced HBV DNA level. The two antigens respectively indicate if a person has been infected by HBV or if a person is infectious.

What is HBsAG? Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) is a protein antigen produced by HBV. This antigen is the earliest indicator of acute hepatitis B and frequently identifies infected people before symptoms appear. HBsAg disappears from the blood during the recovery period.

What is HBeAg? Hepatitis B e-antigen (HBeAg) is a viral protein associated with HBV infections. Unlike the surface antigen, the e-antigen is found in the blood only when there are viruses also present. When the virus goes into “hiding,” the e-antigen will no longer be present in the blood. HBeAg is often used as a marker of ability to spread the virus to other people (infectivity).

The researchers concluded that wogonin possesses potent anti-HBV activity. Currently, wogonin is under early development as an anti-HBV drug candidate.

[Antiviral Res. 2007 Jan 24]