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Five north Indian plants’ potential to fight cancer discovered

lucknow Updated: Jun 14, 2013 14:22 IST
Gaurav Saigal
Gaurav Saigal
Hindustan Times
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Bringing a ray of hope to millions of cancer patients, scientists of University of Florida, Case Western Reserve University, Ohio and King George’s Medical University (KGMU), Lucknow have discovered anti-cancer properties in five plants found commonly in north India.

The plants are solanum nigrum commonly called makoi, artemisia vulgaris also called nagdona, swertia chirayata or chirata, cichorium intybus or kasni and smilax glabra or ba qia.

“Cancer treatment is costly and painful, hence we decided to work on the natural sources that can fight cancer cells. For this we chose five plants, anti-cancer properties of which were heard of, but not scientifically proven,” said Dr AA Mahdi, head of the biochemistry department at KGMU and guide in the research.

During their research, the scientists used the plants’ extract to check their anti-cancer properties by exposing cancer cell to the plants’ extract. The properties found in these plants are commonly effective on breast, colon and prostate cancers. However, scientists across globe are working to develop separate vaccines for different cancers.

Breast cancer accounts for over 25% of all types of cancers in women in India, colon cancer incidence (new cases in a year) is about four patients per 100,000 population for both sexes and prostate cancer, though treatable, is on the rise. In western countries they are highly prevalent malignancies and account for approximately half of the cance rrelated deaths among men and women.

Artemisia vulgaris, having antibacterial, anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory properties, is used for centuries as an alternative medicine. Cichorium intybus is used as a liver tonic, and cardio tonic while smilax plants, particularly the tuber of smilax glabra (or jin gang teng in Chinese) is used for treatment of rheumatic arthritis, detoxification. Solanum nigrum has been extensively used in traditional medicine because of its diuretic and antipyretic effects and swertia chirayta is well known for its multifarious therapeutic values and is widely used as a crude drug.

“Aqueous plant extracts exhibited typical features of apoptosis (programmed cell death) including surface bleb formation and redistribution and compaction of cytoplasmic organelles,” said Dr Mahdi.

The research work was carried out for the thesis of Dr Akbar Nawab, who is working in the department of anatomy and cell biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA, under the guidance of Prof Abbas Ali Mahdi of KGMU and Dr Mohd Yunus of Ambedkar University. Part of the work was carried out in collaboration with Dr Sanjay Gupta, Case Western Reserve University, Ohio, USA.