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 Organ-on-a-chip mimics heart's biomechanical properties
23.02.2017 | Vanderbilt University

nachricht Researchers identify cause of hereditary skeletal muscle disorder
22.02.2017 | Klinikum der Universität München

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: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>