Resveratrol is known for its ability to protect plants from bacteria and fungi. Purified versions have been described in scientific journals as potential anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-atherogenic agents, and for their ability to modulate cell growth. Other well-known antioxidants derived from natural sources include caffeine, melatonin, flavonoids, polyphenols, and vitamins C and E.
A flurry of antioxidant studies in recent years has not proven how and why they work at the cellular level. At the suggestion of a young scientist in his lab, Okunieff began studying resveratrol as a tumor sensitizer. That's when they discovered its link to the mitochondria.
The discovery is critical because, like the cell nucleus, the mitochondria contains its own DNA and has the ability to continuously supply the cell with energy when functioning properly. Stopping the energy flow theoretically stops the cancer.
Researchers divided pancreatic cancer cells into two groups: cells treated without resveratrol, or with resveratrol, at a relatively high dose of 50 mg/ml, in combination with ionizing radiation. (The resveratrol concentration in red wine can be as high as 30 mg/ml, the study said, and higher doses are expected to be safe as long as a physician is monitoring.)
They evaluated the mitochondria function of the cells treated with resveratrol, and also measured apoptosis (cell death), the level of reactive oxygen species in the cells, and how the cell membranes responded to the antioxidant.
Laboratory experiments showed that resveratrol:
|Contact: Leslie Orr|
University of Rochester Medical Center