Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Penn study shows an ancient crop effective in protecting against a 21st century hazard

10.08.2011
A diet of flaxseed shows protective effects against radiation in animal models

Flax has been part of human history for well over 30,000 years, used for weaving cloth, feeding people and animals, and even making paint.

Now, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have discovered that it might have a new use for the 21st century: protecting healthy tissues and organs from the harmful effects of radiation. In a study just published in BMC Cancer, researchers found that a diet of flaxseed given to mice not only protects lung tissues before exposure to radiation, but can also significantly reduce damage after exposure occurs.

"There are only a handful of potential mitigators of radiation effect, and none of them is nearly ready for the clinic," says the principal investigator Melpo Christofidou-Solomidou, PhD, research associate professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Division. "Our current study demonstrates that dietary flaxseed, already known for its strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, works as both a mitigator and protector against radiation pneumonopathy."

In several separate experiments, the researchers fed one group of mice a diet supplemented with 10 percent flaxseed, either three weeks before a dose of X-ray radiation to the thorax or two, four, or six weeks after radiation exposure. A control group subjected to the same radiation dose was given the same diet but receiving an isocaloric control diet without the flaxseed supplement. After four months, only 40 percent of the irradiated control group survived, compared to 70 to 88 percent of the irradiated flaxseed-fed animals. Various studies of blood, fluids, and tissues were conducted.

Dr. Christofidou-Solomidou and her colleagues found that the flaxseed diet conferred substantial benefits regardless of whether it was initiated before or after irradiation. Mice on flaxseed displayed improved survival rates and mitigation of radiation pneumonitis, with increased blood oxygenation levels, higher body weight, lower pro-inflammatory cytokine levels, and greatly reduced pulmonary inflammation and fibrosis.

The latter finding is especially exciting, because while radiation-induced inflammatory damage can be potentially treated with steroidal therapy (in radiotherapy patients for example), lung fibrosis is essentially untreatable. "There's nothing you can give to patients to prevent fibrosis," Dr. Christofidou-Solomidou points out. "Once a lung becomes "stiff" from collagen deposition, it's irreversible. We have discovered that flaxseed not only prevents fibrosis, but it also protects after the onset of radiation damage."

Dr. Christofidou-Solomidou and her colleagues are focusing further research on the bioactive lignan component of flaxseed, known as SDG (secoisolariciresinol diglucoside), which is believed to confer its potent antioxidant properties. The lignan component also "regulates the transcription of antioxidant enzymes that protect and detoxify carcinogens, free radicals and other damaging agents", she says.

Flaxseed boasts many other qualities that make it particularly attractive as a radioprotector and mitigator. "Flaxseed is safe, it's very cheap, it's readily available, there's nothing you have to synthesize," Dr. Christofidou-Solomidou notes. "It can be given orally so it has a very convenient administration route. It can be packaged and manufactured in large quantities. Best of all, you can store it for very long periods of time." That makes it especially interesting to government officials looking to stockpile radioprotective substances in case of accidental or terrorist-caused radiological disasters.

Co-author Keith Cengel, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Radiation Oncology at Penn, explains that in such cases, "a big issue is the 'worried well' -- all the folks who probably weren't exposed but are concerned and want to do something." Many potential radioprotectors, however, could have risky side effects. Dr. Christofidou-Solomidou adds, "When you give something to 4 or 5 million 'worried well,' you have people with preexisting medical conditions. You can't give just anything to people with heart disease, for example. But this is absolutely safe. In fact, it is known to increase cardiovascular health, a finding shown by another group of Penn investigators a few years ago. It's loaded with omega-3 fatty acids."

Along with other researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine, the authors are conducting further pilot studies on the potential of flaxseed for mitigation of lung damage in patients awaiting lung transplants and those undergoing radiation therapy for the treatment of intra-thoracic malignancies. Dr. Christofidou-Solomidou is even conducting a pilot study for NASA on the benefits of flaxseed for astronauts on extended deep space missions. Lengthy space exploration missions require that the astronauts perform extravehicular activities (EVAs) for repairs, during which they can face exposure to high levels of solar and galactic radiation with the added risk factor of breathing 100 percent oxygen. "Hyperoxia superimposed with radiation could potentially cause some lung damage and some reason to worry for the astronauts," she says. "We are one of a handful of teams in the US that can study radiation in addition to hyperoxia. So now we're adding another level of complexity to the one-hit, radiation damage studies; the double-hit model is something novel, nobody has done it before."

The researchers are already convinced enough to incorporate flaxseed into their own routine. "I actually eat it every morning," says Dr. Cengel, noting, "The potential health benefits are significant and there is no known toxicity—it just makes good sense to me."

The study is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) under a grant initiative focused on the development of novel medical countermeasures to prevent or mitigate pulmonary injury or restore function after exposure to ionizing radiation.

Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $4 billion enterprise.

Penn's Perelman School of Medicine is currently ranked #2 in U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools and among the top 10 schools for primary care. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $507.6 million awarded in the 2010 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania -- recognized as one of the nation's top 10 hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; and Pennsylvania Hospital – the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Penn Medicine also includes additional patient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2010, Penn Medicine provided $788 million to benefit our community.

Jessica Mikulski | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uphs.upenn.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures
17.11.2017 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

nachricht High speed video recording precisely measures blood cell velocity
15.11.2017 | ITMO University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>