Herbal ingredient kills kidney cancer cells

Herbal ingredient kills kidney cancer cells


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Medicinal plant: Herbal ingredient kills kidney cancer cells
18.03.2015

Kidney cancer is one of the rarer cancers in Germany. Since, like other types of cancer, it initially does not cause any symptoms that are typical of it, a diagnosis is often late. This cancer is usually treated surgically. In the future, a herbal ingredient that kills kidney cancer cells may also help.

Kidney cancer is one of the rarer types of cancer. Every year around 15,500 people in Germany develop kidney cancer. Older people and men are more often affected than women. The risk factors include smoking, alcohol consumption, high blood pressure and obesity. Like other types of cancer, kidney cancer does not initially cause any symptoms that are typical of it. When it comes to symptoms such as flank pain, unexplained weight loss, constant fatigue, kidney pain or blood in the urine, the disease is usually well advanced. In most cases, kidney cancer is treated surgically. In the future, a plant-based active ingredient could possibly help.

Medicinal plants from Africa As reported by the "Informationsdienst Wissenschaft" (idw), Phyllanthus engleri has long been considered a medicinal plant in its home in southern Africa. Above all, the shrub or small tree that used to belong to the spurge family grows in the dry savannah areas in Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. The roots of the plant are used in Tanzania as a remedy for epilepsy, the chewing of the leaves and fruits is said to help against cough and abdominal pain. And a brew from roots is even said to be effective against schistosomiasis and gonorrhea. However, the plant also contains strong toxins that can lead to deadly poisoning.

Noisy states of excitement in cats In 2009, American scientists obtained over 30 substances from Phyllanthus engleri and analyzed their effectiveness on cancer cells. A variant of Englerin-A from the bark of the tree is therefore particularly effective against kidney cancer cells and some other forms of cancer. Prof. Dr. Mathias Christmann from the Free University in Berlin has successfully created this complex connection synthetically. An ingredient in catnip oil (Nepeta cataria) served as the starting material for this: the so-called nepetalactone - a substance that triggers intoxicated states of excitement in cats.

Cells die within a few minutes It has not been researched how Englerin-A kills cancer cells. Until recently, a variant of the protein kinase C enzyme was thought to be the target protein of Englerin-A. But researchers from the Max Planck Society have now found that cells that respond particularly well to Englerin-A do not even have this enzyme variant. The scientists therefore focused on a family of calcium channels in the cell membrane of kidney cells, the so-called TRPCs (transient receptor potential channels). Different kidney cancer cells form different amounts of these channels. The idw reports that the measurements showed that adding Englerin-A increases the calcium concentration within the cells so much that they die within a few minutes.

Possibly suitable as a cancer drug “We examined cancer cells that produce a lot of TRPC4. These cells are particularly sensitive to Englerin-A. In cells that do not form TRPC4 or have normal amounts of TRPC4, the calcium level does not rise as much. These cells therefore do not die, ”explained Slava Ziegler from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Physiology. However, the scientists do not yet know whether the overproduction of the TRPCs is the sole reason for the cancer cells to die. Englerin-A probably has a specific effect on cancer cells in the kidney. "This property is a great advantage over other cancer drugs because it could possibly avoid side effects on healthy cells," explained Herbert Waldmann, who at the Max Planck Institute in Dortmund researches, among other things, the use of natural substances for drug development. In cooperation with the Lead Discovery Center in Dortmund, the researchers want to investigate in the next few years whether Englerin-A is suitable as a cancer drug. (ad)

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