How this 3000 year old spice kills cancer revealed
UT Southwestern researchers have discovered how an Indian pepper plant that has been around for thousands of years and used medicinally in Aruyvedic medicine kills cancer.
In a fascinating finding researchers admit there is always something new to be learned through research. In this case, the pepper plant from India, known as the long pepper (Piper longum) has been found to suppress a gene that is abundant in cancer tumors.
The pepper plant's medicinal use dates back thousands of years and was referenced by Hippocrates, the "father of medicine" for it's healing properties.
Reported uses for long pepper, also sometimes called Javanese has been cultivated for use in cooking, but also for treatment of a variety of ailments including bronchitis, depression, obesity and liver disease.
Anti-cancer effect of long pepper
Thanks to technology UT Southwestern researchers were able to observe how the 3000 year old medicinal spice acts to suppress a gene called GSTP1. The gene produces an enzyme that is found in high amounts in tumors. Studies suggest finding drugs that inhibit the gene could provide new ways to treat cancer.
The secret they say comes from the chemical Piperlongumine (PL) that has the ability to fight various types of cancer.
For their study, scientists created molecular structures using x-ray crystallography to observe how PL is converted to the gene silencing active drug hPL.
Dr. Kenneth Westover, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Radiation Oncology said in a media release: “This study illustrates the importance of examining and re-examining our theories. In this case we learned something fundamentally new about a 3,000-year-old medical claim using modern science.”
The researcher adds he is hopeful the finding will lead to ways to improve the potency of PL found in long pepper, which in turn can be developed for treating cancers of the colon, lung, prostate, stomach and breast as well as lymphoma and leukemia. The study is published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
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