|Life Extension Update Exclusive |
Plant compounds could prevent joint inflammation
Research reported in the September 27 2005 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (http://www.pnas.org/) revealed that compounds found in cruciferous vegetables could help protect the joints from damaging inflammation, which may lead to a new treatment for arthritis.
The current experiment resulted from the interest of researchers at Johns Hopkins University concerning the differing effects that shear stress has on blood vessels and joints. Shear stress is generated when liquids move across surfaces, which in this case are the cells lining the blood vessels and the joints. Blood vessels produce beneficial phase 2 enzymes that help protect cells from carcinogens in response to shear stress, but in the joints high shear stress increases cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2) enzyme levels, resulting in pain, inflammation and suppression of phase 2 enzymes, and the eventual death of cartilage cells known as chondrocytes.
To find out what would happen when chondrocytes were first exposed to phase 2 enzymes, the Hopkins researchers, led by associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering Konstantinos Konstantopoulos, exposed cultured chondrocytes to compounds derived from cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli that are known to increase the enzymes. After 24 hours, the researchers subjected the cells to a stress test designed to mimic the effects of exercise, which would normally produce an increase in COX-2. Lead author Zachary R. Healy, who is a doctoral student in Dr Konstantopoulos' laboratory, explained the findings: “The beneficial phase 2 enzymes somehow seemed to prevent the activation of the inflammatory COX-2 enzyme. The phase 2 enzymes inhibited the inflammation and the apoptosis -- the cellular suicide we'd observed."
Paul Talalay, who is a coauthor of the PNAS report, commented, "This was the first work done in applying these phytochemicals to chondrocytes, which are constantly under the influence of forces because of the way we move our joints. The phase 2 inducers seemed to counteract the effects of that stress by inhibiting the expression of COX-2 enzyme. It's interesting to think that people may be able to obtain this benefit through dietary components."